Assessing the quality of scientific research requires a multidimensional perspective. Our vision encompasses three dimensions that can be assessed within each area of research: rigor, relevance and originality.
Rigorous application of scientific, ethical, and legal standards that avoid biases or breaches of integrity at all stages of the scientific process from the conceptual framing, over study design and execution to data analysis and reporting are of utmost importance. Without proper execution, research will never make a significant impact.
Rigor is more than craftmanship. It includes a connotation of thoroughness and persistence. Nowadays, methods of open science including pre-registration, code-, material- and data-sharing according to FAIR principles, are essential ingredients to foster transparency so that rigorous applications of scientific methods can be readily monitored.
The question posed and the insight (potentially) delivered produce value, which might be a medical value for our patients or a societal value by changing the way we live together or enabling a new product or service. However, it might be also a purely professional/scientific value when it comes to changing how we think about a fundamental scientific concept.
Research that is based on scientific curiosity and comes with a question, design, technical and analytical approach, or interpretation that nobody else has used before, but appears perfect for solving a relevant problem. These untrodden paths are often the avenues for entirely new insights. Even cases where such new avenues are ending up in a dead-end road are a fundamental part of the scientific process. Without them, we would never discover new shores.
While rigor forms the basis that every scientific activity has to meet, relevance and originality occur usually in balance but sometimes also unbalanced.
If these three dimensions are assessed in a well-considered way, ideally by a committee whose members have diverse perspectives and refrain from conflicts of interests, one can readily distinguish between excellent, good, and mediocre research.
Having a committee with enough perspectives, the intersubjectivity may lead to consensus. However, such consensus-building requires a culture that accepts different views and cherishes complexity while refraining from simplification and polarization.