Re: Future UK RAEs to be Metrics-Based

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2006 12:04:46 +0000

The UK Research Assessment Exercise's (RAE's) sensible and overdue
transition from time-consuming, cost-ineffective panel review to low-cost
metrics is moving forward:

However, there is still a top-heavy emphasis, in the RAE's provisional
metric equation, on the Prior-Funding metric: "How much research funding
has the candidate department received in the past?"

    "The outcome announced today is a new process that uses for all
    subjects a set of indicators based on research income, postgraduate
    numbers, and a quality indicator."

Although prior funding should be *part* of the equation, it should
definitely not be the most heavily weighted component a-priori, in any
field. Otherwise, it will merely generate a Matthew-Effect/Self-Fulfilling
Prophecy (the rich get richer, etc.) and it will also collapse the
UK Dual Funding System ((1) competitive proposal-based funding *plus*
(2) RAE performance-based, top-sliced funding) into just a scaled up
version of (1) alone.

Having made the right decision -- to rely far more on low-cost metrics
than on costly panels -- the RAE should now commission rigorous,
systematic studies of metrics, testing metric equations discipline by
discipline. There are not just three but many potentially powerful
and predictive metrics that could be used in these equations (e.g.,
citations, recursively weighted citations, co-citations, hub/authority
indices, latency scores, longevity scores, downloads, download/citation
correlations, endogamy/exogamy scores, and many more rich and promising
indicators). Unlike panel review, metrics are automatic and cheap to
generate, and in the 2008 parallel panel/metric exercise they can be
tested and cross-validated against the panel rankings, field by field.

In all metric fields -- biometrics, psychometrics, sociometrics -- the
choice and weight of metric predictors is based on careful, systematic
prior testing and validation, not on the basis of a hasty a-priori
choice. Biassed predictors are also avoided: The idea is to maximise
the depth, breadth, flexibility and validity of the predictive power
by choosing and weighting the right metrics. More metrics is better than
fewer, because they serve as cross-checks on one another; this triangulation
also highlights anomalies, if any.

Let us hope that good sense will not stop with the decision to convert
to metrics, but will continue to prevail in making a sensible, informed
choice among the rich spectrum of metrics available in the online age.

    Excerpts from
    "Response to consultation on successor to research assessment exercise"

    "In the Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014
    (published in 2004), the Government expressed an interest in using
    metrics collected as part of the 2008 RAE to provide a benchmark on
    the value of metrics as compared to peer review, with a view to making
    more use of metrics in assessment and reducing the administrative
    burden of peer review. The 10-Year Science and Innovation
    Investment Framework: Next Steps published with the 2006 Budget
    moved these plans forward by proposing a consultation on moving to
    a metrics-based research assessment system after the 2008 RAE. A
    working Group chaired by Sir Alan Wilson (then DfES Director General
    of Higher Education) and Professor David Eastwood produced proposals
    which were issued for consultation on 13 June 2006. The Government
    announcement today is the outcome of that consultation."

    "The RAE panels already make some use of research metrics in reaching
    their judgements about research quality. Research metrics are
    statistics that provide indicators of the success of a researcher
    or department. Examples of metrics include the amount of income a
    department attracts from funders for its research, the number of
    postgraduate students, or the number of times a published piece
    of research is cited by other researchers. Metrics that relate to
    publications are usually known as bibliometrics.

    "The outcome announced today is a new process that uses for all
    subjects a set of indicators based on research income, postgraduate
    numbers, and a quality indicator. For subjects in science,
    engineering, technology and medicine (SET) the quality indicator will
    be a bibliometric statistic relating to research publications or
    citations. For other subjects, the quality indicator will continue
    to involve a lighter touch expert review of research outputs, with
    a substantial reduction in the administrative burden. Experts will
    also be involved in advising on the weighting of the indicators for
    all subjects."


Some Prior References:

        Harnad, S. (2001) Why I think that research access, impact and
        assessment are linked. Times Higher Education Supplement 1487:
        p. 16.

        Hitchcock, S., Brody, T., Gutteridge, C., Carr, L., Hall, W.,
        Harnad, S., Bergmark, D. and Lagoze, C. (2002) Open Citation
        Linking: The Way Forward. D-Lib Magazine 8(10).

        Harnad, S. (2003) Why I believe that all UK research output should
        be online. Times Higher Education Supplement. Friday, June 6 2003.

        Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. & Oppenheim, C. (2003) Mandated
        online RAE CVs Linked to University Eprint Archives: Improving
        the UK Research Assessment Exercise whilst making it cheaper
        and easier. Ariadne 35.

    "Metrics" are Plural, Not Singular: Valid Objections From UUK About RAE"
    Pertinent Prior American Scientist Open Access Forum Topic Threads:

Pertinent Prior AmSci Topic Threads:

UK "RAE" Evaluations (began Nov 2000)

Digitometrics (May 2001)

Scientometric OAI Search Engines (began Aug 2002)

UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) review (Oct 2002)

Australia stirs on metrics (June 2006)

Big Brother and Digitometrics (began May 2001)

UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) review (began Oct 2002)

Need for systematic scientometric analyses of open-access
data (began Dec 2002)

Potential Metric Abuses (and their Potential Metric Antidotes)
(began Jan 2003)

Future UK RAEs to be Metrics-Based (began Mar 2006)

Australia stirs on metrics (Jun 2006)

Let 1000 RAE Metric Flowers Bloom: Avoid Matthew Effect as
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (Jun 2006)

Australia's RQF (Nov 2006)
Received on Thu Dec 07 2006 - 13:13:34 GMT

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