tion—despite dissimilar panels and mandates produced similar results, lending credence to the technique.

During the experiments, committee members were able to identify several particular strengths of international benchmarking:

  • Panels were able to identify institutional and human-resource factors crucial to maintaining leadership status in a field that is unlikely to have been identified by other methods.

  • Benchmarking allows a panel to determine the best measures for a particular field while providing corroboration through the use of different methods, as opposed to the "one-size-fits-all" approach of some common evaluation methods.

  • Benchmarking can produce a timely but broadly accurate "snapshot" of a field.

The experiments were sufficiently thorough to provide guidelines for future experiments, including the following:

  • Because of the panels' use of expert judgment, the choice of panelists is a key to the credibility of the results. A tendency toward national biases can be mitigated by ensuring diverse geographic membership of panels; the same is true of the groups that select the panel members. In particular, it is critical to include non-US participants in the selection of panelists and as panel members because they provide perspective and objectivity.

  • Because major fields of research change slowly, benchmarking can probably detect important changes in quality, relevance, and leadership in fields when conducted at intervals of 3-5 years. It is unlikely that changes can be detected by annual benchmarking.

  • The choice of research fields to be evaluated is both challenging and critical. A "field" might best be considered the array of related domains between which investigators can move without leaving their primary area of expertise.

  • Benchmarking produces information that administrators, policy-makers, and funding agencies find useful as they make decisions as to what activities a federal research program should undertake and respond to demands for accountability, such as the Government Performance and Results Act.

  • If federal agencies use benchmarking, the wide variation in agency missions dictates that each agency tailor the technique to its own needs.

  • Use of indicators that provide information on degree of uncertainty and reliability of benchmarking results might enhance the presentation of panel assessments of leadership status.

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