Beki Grinter

Politics of University Metrics

In academia, academic management on April 14, 2013 at 10:36 am

This piece in the Chronicle needs very little editorializing, but it does need to be read. What we measure, how we measure it, and who gets measured increasingly influences funding. Metrics have teeth, but they are also very political.

  1. It would be interesting to see a dental exam. My awareness of university rankings so far is hearing people in universities that go up in a ranking brag about it and people in universities whose ranking doesn’t go up dismiss them as stupid. People who normally would have little good to say about US News & World Report make an exception when it boosts them. Has someone documented egregious uses of rankings? I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just curious. It has not shown up overtly in any NSF, NIH, NASA, NAS, tenure review, journal review, or anything else that I’ve been part of, nor probably covertly since few if any people present would have a clue about rankings. Perhaps rankings are used to spur alumni and local patrons to donate, in which case the ideal might be to have a thousand different rankings based on creative metrics so that every institution ends up near the top on one or another. Of course there might then be a ranking of rankings.

  2. “The Wire” talked about this phenomenon in depth. They called it “juking the stats”:

    As an aside, I was recently talking to someone at GTAA about Roll Call donations, and was explicitly told that “participation helps to increase Georgia Tech’s ratings by the various organizations that rank Colleges and Universities”. Personally, I’d much rather hear about the means used to reach that end.

  3. I just came across this very nice Malcolm Gladwell article on rankings,

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