“Metrics should support, not supplant, expert judgement” states Professor James Wilsdon the chair of the Independent Review of the Use of Metrics in Research Assessment & Management.
Wilsdon, a professor of Science & Democracy at the University of Sussex in England, argues that too often, poorly designed evaluation criteria have the potential to distort behaviour and ultimately determine careers. Since metrics hold real power where they are constitutive of values, identities and livelihoods, he fears that at their worst it could contribute to what Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury) calls a “new barbarity” in our universities. The common blunt use of metrics such as journal impact factors, h-indices and grant-income targets are classic pitfalls employed in the process of assessing potential candidates for research funds and employment. Wilsdon emphasizes that peer review, while not perfect, is still the best form of academic governance that is available and that it should remain the primary basis by which to assess research papers, proposals and individuals.
He urges that universities, funders and publishers harmonize their systems ofdata capture because if metrics are to be reliable, the priority for the community must be the widespread introduction of unique identifiers for individuals and research works. He also states that there is legitimate concern that some “quantitative indicators can be gamed, or lead to unintended consequences”. In an attempt to curtail inappropriate use of metrics there will be a ‘Bad Metric’ prize awarded every year to the most appalling example of inappropriate use of quantitative indicators in research management. Sadly though, he predicts that there will be plenty to choose from..LOL!
Extract of article completed by Dr. Kareemah Gamieldien (CPUT)
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