The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) commissioned the Fundación General CSIC to plan and coordinate its Strategic Plans for 2010-2013, a task it performed between June 2008 and March 2009.
The Foundation led the process based on the structure of the CSIC’s 2006-2009 Strategic Plans, and it undertook a range of tasks including the choice and definition of new indicators, the design of a web application allowing strategic planning to be carried out online at each of the CSIC’s functional units, and coordination of the evaluation phase as a whole.
The Fundación General CSIC subjected the whole conceptual structure of the CSIC’s previous strategic plans to analysis in order to clarify the indicators used as far as possible and add a number of new ones relating to outreach, internationalisation, and publication impact, for example, so as to improve and complete the instrument as a whole. This enabled a structure to be designed in which it was possible to collect exhaustive data on all the relevant activity taking place over the last five years, and a critical self-analysis performed on each functional unit, together with all the future objectives and strategies in each case.
Once the strategic plan’s general philosophy had been established and the required indicators defined, specific models were designed for the centres and institutes (including research lines and sub-lines and services), models for scientific and technical facilities, and finally, models for the CSIC’s horizontal units.
Following the conceptual definition of the strategic plan, the Fundación General CSIC undertook the design and implementation of a web application to collected the necessary data so that the CSIC staff involved in preparing the plans could enter the information they had been asked for.
The application was tailored to the various needs of the project: it has a data input interface, and a data presentation interface with a user-friendly table and graphic-based format, and finally, an interface for use when evaluating the plans that had been prepared. The application has therefore been designed to enable a wide range of tasks to be carried out, and it needs to be able to handle large volumes of information, given that all the CSIC’s functional units were involved in its preparation. As well as the information relating to the Horizontal Units and the special scientific and technical facilities, the application produces reports on all 130 centres, including 800 research lines and over 1000 scientific and management services.
In order to improve performance and efficiency, among other goals, and to avoid biased or disputed decisions and, in short, to obtain a more objective view of the viability and coherence of the CSIC’s strategic plans, these plans were submitted to a process of external evaluation by panels comprising prestigious national and international experts. The scores these experts gave to the plans were used to reorient and adjust the initial proposals.
This process, in which the Foundation benefited from the invaluable assistance of the National Evaluation and Foresight Agency (ANEP), was carried out in two phases: The first was a remote evaluation in which evaluators accessed the strategic plans online and produced reports based on evaluation criteria established beforehand by the Fundación General CSIC. The second phase of the process was carried out on site, and built on the previous phase through a series of face-to-face interviews between the evaluation committees and the people responsible for the plans in order to reach a consensus for the final report.
Overall some 250 external evaluators participated in the process, and 200 evaluators were involved in the scientific assessment and 50 in the evaluation of non-scientific Horizontal Units and Management Services.