PhD on Track » Evaluation and ranking » Weighted funding – Norway

Weighted funding – Norway


Funding for the higher education institutions is partly based on their productivity.  The produce is research, manifested as scientific publications. As a publishing researcher in Norway you must relate to a national model ‘tellekantsystemet’ that ranks and weights publications. One goal of the Norwegian model is to get an overview of the scholarly output. Another goal is to increase output and quality through incentives. On this page you will gain general knowledge of how the system works:

  • How is the Norwegian model designed?
  • How do you identify approved publication channels?
  • How are publications weighted and publication points assigned within your field of research?
  • How may the model affect the choices you make for your publications?

Outline of the Norwegian model

The model, popularly named ‘tellekantsystemet’, was introduced in 2005 by the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, and revised in 2015. Stimulating the higher education institutions to publish their research more often and more internationally was the main reason for introducing the model.  A few key points:

  • Total allocated funds fixed each year
  • List of approved scientific publication channels
  • Funds distributed between institutions based on publication points
  • Publication points awarded to publications differ according to type and impact/reputation
  • Publication points are assigned to the authors of the publication and divided between them
  • International cooperation is encouraged
  • Funding is granted to the author’s institution, not the individual author

The Norwegian model – further reading

For a full description of the Norwegian model, please refer to the final report from the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions – UHR.

Approved publication channels

At the core of the model is the notion of ‘publication channel’.  The publication channel is the medium by which the publication is brought to the world.  Mainly we are talking about journals, publishers or web sites.

As noted above, the Norwegian model incorporates a list of publication channels regarded as scientific.  There are both national and international publication channels on the list. Works published in a publication channel on the list can be awarded with publication points given that they fulfill certain criteria.   The list is further divided in two, with a ‘fixed’ upper level reflecting the most highly regarded publication channels, and an updated base level for the mainstream scientific publication channels. The national academic councils maintain the two levels; the upper level is revised once a year while the base level is revised on a continuous basis.

The main idea behind the two levels is to encourage researchers and institutions to publish their research results in the most highly regarded publication channels.

Identify approved publication channels

Publication points

In order to receive publication points, the publication must comply with these criteria as well as being in an approved publication channel:

All publication types are not equal

To be able to base funding on the scientific publications, authorities need to:

  • Count and weigh publications
  • Sort the publications that count from the rest

Making sure that the items which count are in fact comparable is a challenge. As long as the different subject areas differ in publication tradition, there is a need to consider:

  • publication tradition – books or journals
  • national or international readership
  • number of highly regarded journals or publishers within field
  • The work must be peer-reviewed
  • The work must be obtainable by those who normally would want to get hold of it
  • There must be ‘new insight’
  • The work must not be previously published
  • The author and the author’s institution must be clearly stated in the publication
  • The publication channel must be clearly marked with name and/or identifier

This means that publication points are awarded to the institution as stated in the publication, regardless of where the researcher is actually working at the time of publication.  Further, points can only be granted for the year printed in the publication itself, irrespective of the true year of publication if they differ.

Books and articles

Different disciplines can have different publication traditions. A historian might write a single book every four years, whereas the microbiologist may very well publish many articles every year, each with multiple co-authors.  What about books versus articles?  International focus or local focus? Many scientific journals in your field, or just a few – or even a single one?

One of the major dividing lines in publishing patterns goes between the ‘article subjects’ and the ‘book subjects’.  A crude chart can be made:

Articles Mixed Books
Astronomy Economy Cultural Anthropology
Biology Mathematics Archaeology
Chemistry Informatics Philosophy
Medicine Communications History
Psychology Statistics Linguistics
Geography Sociology

Chart adapted from the UHR-report linked above

The table is by no means complete, but we get the notion that there are differences between the subjects.  When counting publications and awarding points, we need to make sure that we count items that can be compared. Most people would agree that there is more ‘work’ involved in a single author monograph than in a shorter article for a national journal.  The obvious solution is to award different points to different kinds of publications.  In Norway we have this distribution:

Level 1
Monograph 5 points*
Book article or chapter 0.7 points
Journal article 1 point

* For simplicity called “points” here. In reality we are dealing with author weightings.

This distribution is for level 1 of scientific publication channels.  For level 2, the highest ranking publication channels, we have another distribution:

Level 2
Monograph 8 points
Book article or chapter 1 point
Journal article 3 points

We see that the system indicates that writing an article in an anthology has the lowest ‘work load’ or academic status, whereas writing a monograph has the most. Level 2 differentiates more than level 1, with a considerable increase in points for the journal article, but only a slight increase for the anthology or book article.

The reason for this shift in focus is based on the publication patterns for the different subjects; the typical ‘book subjects’ have traditionally fewer publication channels to choose from, and as the ratio between levels 1 and 2 is fixed in the Norwegian system, one could argue that it is harder to get accepted by a level 2 journal within the ‘journal subjects’ than it is to get accepted by a level 2 publisher within the ‘book subjects’.

Further complicating the picture here is the fact that all researchers are supposed to have equal opportunities to find a suitable level 2 publication channel in their subject field.  As a result you may find that in some areas there is a relatively large number of national level 2 publishers, as in e.g. Nordic studies and classics, because there are basically not too many to choose from, while for e.g. molecular biology there will be thousands of publication channels available at level 1, but only the very few best ones at level 2.

Share of Authorship

As a co-author of a publication you receive one share of the publication. If you are one of  two authors you will get half a share each, if you are one of four authors you will get one quarter of the share. As an author with more than one affiliation your total share is split between the number of affiliations you have listed in the publication. Also non-Norwegian institutions and authors are counted – even if they are not part of the Norwegian publication system; any shares awarded to them will effectively be lost.

Introduced in the 2015-revision the publication share is then multiplied with its square root, giving us a final number to multiply with the points found in the tables above to get the final score. An example of the differences between the old and new ways of calculating the publication points:

10 authors from institution X, 1 author from institution Y

2010-2014 – level 1 journal article
1*10/11 + 1*1/11 = 0,91 points (X) + 0,09 points (Y) = 1 point

2015 onwards – level 1 journal article
1*√10/11 + 1*√1/11 = 0,95 points (X) + 0,30 points (Y) = 1,25 points

After the 2015 revision, each author’s points are not as easy to spot, answering one of the critiques of the original model; the NVI-system was too readily available for use in ranking at the local institutions.  Also, the twist in using square roots means that there is less incentive for bringing on many co-authors in order to get most of the point to your own institution.  The main point of the shift towards using square roots in the calculation is that it effectively helps even out the number of annual points awarded to the different subjects shown in the table above.

What you need to know as an author

To ensure that your institution secures its share of the funding, all publications are registered at the institution and then reported to the Ministry of Education and Research through a joint statistical database.  As a researcher you can add value to the model itself and increase the funding to your own institution by keeping the following points in mind:

  • Publish your work in an approved publication channel
  • Suggest your chosen publication channel for inclusion if you cannot find it in the approved list
  • Make sure you put the correct credentials in your agreement with the publisher
  • Make sure you are recognised as a co-author
  • If the publication is late, the final issue of a journal for one year may often appear six months into the following year, make sure that you have proof of the forthcoming publication
  • Register your work in the national Cristin system

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