Re: Future UK RAEs to be Metrics-Based

From: <l.hurtado_at_ED.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2006 09:56:10 +0100

I've done a quick check of the publications by Openheim supposedly
showing a strong correlation of RAE standings and citations in
journals, and it seems to me that all I can find are studies to do with
psychology, anatomy, archaeology, etc., ALL OF WHICH use
journal-articles as the prized mode of research
Can Openheim or STevan point me to studies of, e.g., English Lit,
History, Religion, with similar results??
I know that this list is not about this issue primarily, but it's the
(over?)confidence of Stevan on this that puzzles me . . . in the
apparent absence of the empirical proof that he so values. Or please
correct me by pointing to the publications I request (preferably
online, of course!).

Quoting Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>:

> On Mon, 18 Sep 2006 l.hurtado_at_ED.AC.UK wrote:
>> Well, I'm all for empirically-based views in these matters. So, if
>> Oppenheim or others have actually soundly based studies showing what
>> Stevan and Oppenheim claim, then that's to be noted. I'll have to see
>> the stuff when it's published. In the meanwhile, a couple of further
>> questions:
> Many studies are already published. In fact many are cited in:
> Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. and Oppenheim, C. (2003) Mandated
> online RAE CVs Linked to University Eprint Archives. Ariadne 35.
>> --Pardon me for being out of touch, perhaps, but more precisely what is
>> being measured? What does journal "citation counts" refer to?
> The total number of citations to the articles by submitted authors
> (and not just those
> for their 4 submitted articles!)
>> Citation of journal articles? Or citation of various things in journal
>> articles (and why privilege this medium?)? Or . . . what?
> Citation of the articles, but that usually means citing things in the
> articles!
> Journal articles are privileged in many disciplines because they are the
> main means of reporting research. In book-based disciplines the balance
> is otherwise, but the interesting thing is that even in book-based
> disciplines there is a journal article citation correlation with the RAE
> rankings. One would expect it to be somewhat weaker than in article-based
> disciplines, but more data are needed to be exact about this.
>> --What does "correlation" between RAE results and "citation counts"
>> actually comprise?
> The RAE ranks the departments of the c. 73 UK research universities,
> with ranks from 1 to 5*. Correlation is the measure of the degree to
> which values on one variable co-vary with, hence predict, values on
> another variable (e.g. height is correlated with weight, the higher on
> one, the higher on the other, and vice versa).
> When two variables are correlated, you can predict one from the other. How
> accurately you can predict is reflected by the square of the correlation
> coefficient: If there is a correlation of 0.8, then the predictivity (the
> percentage of the variation in one of the variables that you can already
> predict from the other) is 64%. For a correlation of 0.9 it's 81% etc.
> Well, as you will see in the reference list of the above-cited article,
> Smith & Eysenck found a correlation of about 0.9 between the RAE ranks
> and the total citation counts for the submitted researchers in Psychology.
> Looking at Charles Oppenheim's studies, you will see that the correlations
> varied from about 0.6 to 0.9, depending on field and year, which is all
> quite high, but *especially* give that the RAE does not count citations!
> The correlation is even higher with another metric, in science and
> biology: prior research funding. There it can be as high as 0.99, but
> that is not so good, because (1) prior funding *is* directly seen and
> counted by the panel, so that high correlation could be an effect of
> direct influence. Worse, using prior funding as a criterion generates a
> Matthew Effect, with the already-highly-funded getting richer and richer,
> and the less-funded getting poorer and poorer.
> That is why a multiple regression equation is best, with many predictor
> metrics, each one weighted according to the desiderata and particulars
> of each discipline, and validated against further criteria, to make sure
> they are measuring what we want to measure. There will be many candidate
> metrics in the OA era.
>> Let me lay out further reasons for some skepticism. In my own field
>> (biblical studies/theology), I'd say most senior-level scholars
>> actually publish very infrequently in refereed journals. We do perhaps
>> more in earlier years, but as we get to senior levels we tend (a) to
>> get requests for papers for multi-author volumes, and (b) we devote
>> ourselves to projects that best issue in book-length publications.
> That happens in other fields too, and as metric equations are calibrated
> and optimised, factors like seniority will enter into the weightings
> too. (Book chapter citations can and will of course be cited too --
> and are, to a limited degree, already being counted by ISI and others,
> because journal articles cite books and book chapters too, and those
> citations are caught by ISI.)
>> So if my own productivity and impact were assessed by how many journal
>> articles I've published in the last five years, I'd look poor (even
>> though . . . well, let's say that I rather suspect that wouldn't be the
>> way I'm perceived by peers in the field).
> The RAE ranks departments via individuals, and a department needs
> a blend of junior and senior people, with their different style of
> publication. And remember that RAE is comparing like with like. So
> you might be interested in checking how your own journal article
> and book chapter citation counts compare with those of your peers (or
> juniors). You might be (pleasantly) surprised!
> And of course in the (soon-to-hand) OA era, other metrics will be
> available too, such as download counts ("hits"), which happen much
> earlier, yet are correlated with later citations -- and are of course
> maximized by self-archiving your papers in your institutional IR to make
> them OA.
> Odd new metrics will also include endogamy/exogamy scores (their preferred
> polarity depending on field!), depending on the degree of self-citing,
> co-author citing, co-citation circle citing, within/outside specialty
> citing, intra/interdisciplinary citing, both for the citing article/author
> and the cited article/author. Then there's text-proximity scores (of which
> an extreme would be plagiarism), latency/longevity metrics, co-citation
> to/from, CiteRank (where the weight of each citation is recursively
> ranked, google style, by the degree of citedness of the citer), etc. etc.
>> Or is the metric to comprise how many times I'm *cited* in journals?
> It's how many times you're cited, which means how many times your
> articles are
> cited -- in journals, but in principle also in book chapters,
> conferences and books.
> And whether what is *being* cited is articles, chapters or books.
>> If so, is there some proven correlation between a scholar's impact or
>> significance of publications in the field and how many times he happens
>> to be cited in this one genre of publication? I'm just a bit
>> suspicious of the assumptions, which I still suspect are drawn (all
>> quite innocently, but naively) from disciplines in which journal
>> publication is much more the main and significant venue for scholarly
>> publication.
> I don't know of systematic genre comparisons (journals vs book chapters,
> even empirical vs theoretical journals, reviews, etc.) but they no doubt
> exist. I will branch this to the sigmetrics list where the experts are! I
> am just an amateur...
>> And, as we all know, "empirical" studies depend entirely on the
>> assumptions that lie at their base. So their value is heavily framed
>> by the validity and adequacy of the governing assumptions. No
>> accusations, just concerns.
> Interpretations may be influenced by assumptions, but the empirical fact
> that atmospheric pressure predicts RAE ranking would be an empirical datum
> (and, if it predicted it with a correlation of, say, 0.9) that would be
> a reason for scrapping RAE panels for barometers theory-independently....
> Stevan Harnad
>> Quoting Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>:
>> > On Mon, 18 Sep 2006, Larry Hurtado wrote:
>> >
>> >> Stevan and I have exchanged views on the *feasibility* of a metrics
>> >> approach to assessing research strength in the Humanities, and he's
>> >> impressed me that something such *might well* be feasible *when/if*
>> >> certain as-yet untested and undeveloped things fall into place. I note,
>> >> e.g., in Stevan's addendum to Oppenheim's comment that a way of handling
>> >> book-based disciplines "has not yet been looked at", and that a number
>> >> of other matters are as yet "untested".
>> >
>> > Larry is quite right that the (rather obvious and straightforward)
>> > procedure of self-archiving books' metadata and cited references in
>> > order to derive a comprehensive book-citation index (which would
>> > of course include journal articles citing books, books citing books,
>> > and books citing journal articles) had not yet been implemented or
>> > tested.
>> >
>> > However, the way to go about it is quite clear, and awaits only OA
>> > self-archiving mandates (to which a mandate to self-archive one's book
>> > metadata and reference list should be added as a matter of course).
>> >
>> > But please recall that I am an evangelist for OA self-archiving, because
>> > I *know* it can be done, that it works, and that it confers substantial
>> > benefits in terms of research access, usage and impact.
>> >
>> > Insofar as metrics are concerned, I am not an evangelist, but merely an
>> > enthusiast: The evidence is there, almost as clearly as it is with the
>> > OA impact-advantage, that citation counts are strongly correlated with
>> > RAE rankings in every discipline so far tested. Larry seems to pass over
>> > evidence in his remark about the as yet incomplete book citation data
>> > (ISI has some, but they are only partial). But what does he have to say
>> > about the correlation between RAE rankings and *journal article citation
>> > counts* in the humanities (i.e., in the "book-based" disciplines)?
>> > Charles will, for example, soon be reporting strong correlations in
>> > Music. Even without having to wait for a book-impact index, it seems
>> > clear that there are as yet no reported empirical exceptions to the
>> > correlation between journal article citation metrics and RAE outcomes.
>> >
>> > (I hope Charles will reply directly, posting some references to his and
>> > others' studies.)
>> >
>> >> This being the case, it is certainly not so a priori to say that a
>> >> metrics approach is not now really feasible for some disciplines.
>> >
>> > Nothing a priori about it: A posteriori, every discipline so far tested
>> > has shown positive correlations between its journal citation
>> counts and its
>> > RAE rankings, including several Humanities disciplines.
>> >
>> > The advantage of having one last profligate panel-based RAE in parallel
>> > with the metric one in 2008 is that not a stone will be left unturned.
>> > If there prove to be any disciplines having small or non-existent
>> > correlations with metrics, they can and should be evaluated otherwise.
>> > But let us not assume, a priori, that there will be any such
>> > disciplines.
>> >
>> >> I emphasize that my point is not a philosophical one, but strictly
>> >> whether as yet a worked out scheme for handling all Humanities
>> >> disciplines rightly is in place, or capable of being mounted without
>> >> some significant further developments, or even thought out adequately.
>> >
>> > It depends entirely on the size of the metric correlations with the
>> > present RAE rankings. Some disciplines may need some supplementary forms
>> > of (non-metric) evaluation if their correlations are too weak. That is an
>> > empirical question. Meanwhile, the metrics will also be growing in power
>> > and diversity.
>> >
>> >> That's not an antagonistic question, simply someone asking for the
>> >> basis for the evangelistic stance of Stevan and some others.
>> >
>> > I evangelize for OA self-archiving of research and merely advocate
>> > further development, testing and use of metrics in research performance
>> > assessment, in all disciplines, until/unless evidence appears that there
>> > are exceptions. So far, the objections I know of are all only in the
>> > form of a priori preconceptions and habits, not objective data.
>> >
>> > Stevan Harnad
>> >
>> >> > Charles Oppenheim has authorised me to post this on his behalf:
>> >> >
>> >> > "Research I have done indicates that the same correlations between
>> >> > RAE scores and citation counts already noted in the sciences and
>> >> > social sciences apply just as strongly (sometimes more strongly)
>> >> > in the humanities! But you are right, Richard, that metrics are
>> >> > PERCEIVED to be inappropriate for the humanities and a lot of
>> >> > educating is needed on this topic."
>> >
>> L. W. Hurtado, Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology
>> Director of Postgraduate Studies
>> School of Divinity, New College
>> University of Edinburgh
>> Mound Place
>> Edinburgh, UK. EH1 2LX
>> Office Phone: (0)131 650 8920. FAX: (0)131 650 7952

L. W. Hurtado, Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology
Director of Postgraduate Studies
School of Divinity, New College
University of Edinburgh
Mound Place
Edinburgh, UK. EH1 2LX
Office Phone: (0)131 650 8920. FAX: (0)131 650 7952
Received on Tue Sep 19 2006 - 14:07:09 BST

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