Stefan Collini on how United Kingdom academics feel about managers and research metrics:
But there is obviously something much deeper at work. It is the alienation from oneself that is experienced by those who are forced to describe their activities in misleading terms. The managers, by contrast, do not feel this, and for good reason. The terms that suit their activities are the terms that have triumphed: scholars now spend a considerable, and increasing, part of their working day accounting for their activities in the managers’ terms. The true use-value of scholarly labour can seem to have been squeezed out; only the exchange-value of the commodities produced, as measured by the metrics, remains.
My personal experience is that research metrics can be useful as one input into performance related discussions. However, research metrics often do not capture the developmental aspects of doing research, or intangibles such as doing blind peer review for journals, or learning from exemplars. These would require a more Balanced Scorecard-like approach to research metrics.
Every year, university research offices compile annual data on research publications for the Australian Government. The Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) exercise includes Australian Government categories for peer reviewed books, book chapters, journal articles, and edited conference papers. There are also recognised non-categories for items like original creative works, expert commentary, and patents. Universities receive research funding from the Australian Government which may be used to fund internal, competitive grant schemes and discretionary funds for individual research accounts. There is usually one to two year’s delay from HERDC data collection to Australian Government funds allocation.
I looked through the HERDC categories whilst beginning to compile my 2012 research publications. One aspect stood out: HERDC appears to have no category — apart from O for Other Publications Category — for internet or online publications. Academics’ work for The Conversation appears to best fit category N for Expert Commentary. HERDC thus focuses on traditional definitions of research publications; it ignores how contemporary scholars actually work; and it overlooks or minimises the internet’s original design goal to share (scholarly) information.