At the very top, at the absolute top of the world, it’s easy. You take Nobel Prizes. But underneath? Where can reliable quality indicators be found for the public, for political decision-makers? How can you get an idea of the performance of a department or a university? When it comes to the ranking, there is agreement: a comparison of universities fails because of the different sizes of the institutions and the focal points in the faculties; The Excellence Strategy ignored such concerns.
So-called evaluations only partially solve the problem. In addition, evaluations are time-consuming and labor-intensive. This means that no assessments can be made across the board. The practice of many universities to compare their publication or footnote kings with each other, in turn, quickly reaches its limits due to friendship groups. The acquisition of public third-party funding says little overall.
The most convincing are external evaluations at the level of the specialist disciplines. For some, the start-up output becomes a benchmark for quality, as does the number of graduates or the number of dissertations.
Andreas Eckert, the chairman of the development fund Science in Berlin, chooses a different approach in a study with the University of Hamburg. According to this, one should construct an indicator for the academically relatively large and economically significant area of the life sciences, for example, from the exploitation agreements that have led to new drugs determined from statistics of the American federal health authority FDA. For particularly innovative breakthroughs, it almost always links its approval notices with the anchor patents on which the approval of the new drug is based. It reconstructs the line from the scientific discoverer to the actually available drug.
Since in Germany the rights to the inventions of the university members belong to the employers, in the FDA statistics German universities or college hospitals appear as applicants for the patents when their scientists have made a significant contribution to the development of a drug. Apparently they rarely do that.
In the last decade (2010 to 2019) was covered by the patents which, according to the FDA, are the major medical Underlying breakthroughs, not a single one registered by a German university. Only the Max Planck Society can adorn itself with eight attributions during this period.
If institutions receive money for the purpose of getting new drugs on the way and do not appear under the FDA patents, makes you think. It then does not seem to succeed in giving research the necessary status compared to the competing goals of teaching and patient care. This shows how important robust performance indicators such as the recording of anchor patents are.
Only when deficits are clearly and publicly discussed does the management of the bureaucratic apparatus have an internal chance to address its own claims to enforce the ability to innovate internally against competing interests.