Beki Grinter

New Forms of Impact

In academia, academic management, research on October 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

This article came to my attention via several different sources.

I want to say from the outset I agree with a number of the author’s points, and clearly so do others given that its a report from a conference and also has been reposted in several places.

But here’s the open question: how should we evaluate non-traditional forms of impact? The easier task is to argue that a problem exists, the harder one is proposing alternatives. Take the case of blogging. Reader counts are attractively numeric (always good for a metric) but it doesn’t answer the question of who the people are? Nor does it address what forms of impact that reading the blog might be having? Is it enough that it’s a completely unknown but large group. Should that group have to *do* something based on the post?  One thing that is rather nice about the traditional peer-review citation practices is that it’s concrete (we can compute the h-index if we chose), but we can also see the impact of our own work in that of others.

Perhaps we don’t want to reduce it to metrics. But I think the question that’s still on the table is what are these new forms of impact, where do we find evidence that something has happened? (And another set would be can everyone agree that this new form of impact is an appropriate form of impact — another open question, but without agreement I don’t think the form of impact will “stick”).

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