Metrics evoke a mixed reaction from the research community. A commitment to using data and evidence to inform decisions makes many of us sympathetic, even enthusiastic, about the prospect of granular, real-time analysis of our own activities.
Yet we only have to look around us, at the blunt use of metrics such as journal impact factors, h-indices and grant income targets to be reminded of the pitfalls.
Some of the most precious qualities of academic culture resist simple quantification, and individual indicators can struggle to do justice to the richness and plurality of our research. Too often, poorly designed evaluation criteria are “dominating minds, distorting behaviour and determining careers.”
What’s at stake is more than just the design of effective management systems. Metrics hold real power: they are constitutive of values, identities and livelihoods.
How to exercise that power to positive ends is the focus of this website. It builds on the UK’s Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management, which published its final report The Metric Tide on 9 July 2015. The review was chaired by James Wilsdon, supported by an independent and multidisciplinary group of experts in research funding, research policy, publishing, scientometrics, university management and research administration.
Based on fifteen months of evidence-gathering, analysis and consultation, The Metric Tide proposes a framework for responsible metrics, and makes a series of twenty targeted recommendations. Together these are designed to ensure that indicators and underlying data infrastructure develop in ways that support the diverse qualities and impacts of research. Looking to the future, the report shows how responsible metrics can be applied in research management, in the next cycle of the UK’s Research Excellence Framework and by universities, funders and publishers.
The metric tide is rising. But we have the opportunity – and a growing body of evidence – to influence how it washes through higher education and research. This site is intended to broaden debate and encourage action to ensure that metrics and indicators develop in more positive and responsible ways.