Beki Grinter

Using the Right Metrics

In academia, academic management, discipline, research on January 14, 2011 at 2:21 pm

An article published today in the Chronicle of Higher Education makes a lot of important points. It examines the relationship and value assigned to teaching as compared to research. But, the reason I wanted to blog about this article is the following. It’s a faculty member describing how he raises 3million dollars a year in support of his research.

“Nobody has ever asked me how good my papers were, and I think you would find that universally true,” he said, “They basically say, Well, how many research dollars are you bringing in?”

Metrics are so seductive, particularly quantifiable ones. It appears easier to measure the quantity of money versus the quality of a paper. It’s desireable to assign University’s a ranking, but as the National Research Council learnt, it’s not easy to assign one that actually accounts for all that takes place in a University. Metrics are not a substitute for assessment, but sometimes I fear that their ease of computation confuses the important distinction between the two, and that can be dangerous for all those who are the object of that calculation.


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