Re: Collini on "Impact on humanities" in Times Literary Supplement

From: (wrong string) édon Jean-Claude <jean.claude.guedon_at_UMONTREAL.CA>
Date: Sat, 28 Nov 2009 18:24:02 -0500

Work on book citations is in progress in Brazil,but more is needed.

Metrics are fine, but should not be fetishized either. In any case, the objects to be measured should be conceptualized with care, given that the humanities are non-paradigmatic in their discursive structure. Citations may not be the most useful objects to be tracked (although they should not be ignored either).

Jean-Claude Guédon

-----Original Message-----
From: American Scientist Open Access Forum on behalf of Stevan Harnad
Sent: Sat 11/28/2009 4:14 PM
Subject: Collini on "Impact on humanities" in Times Literary Supplement
Commentary on:
Collini, S. (2009) Impact on humanities: Researchers must take a stand
now or be judged and rewarded as salesmen. Times Literary Supplement.
November 13 2009.

One can agree whole-heartedly with Professor Collini that much of the
spirit and the letter of the RAE and the REF and their acronymous
successors are wrong-headed and wasteful -- while still holding that
measures ("metrics") of scholarly/scientific impact are not without
some potential redeeming value, even in the Humanities. After all,
even expert peer judgment, if expressed rather than merely silently
mentalized, is measurable. (Bradley's observation on the
ineluctability of metaphysics applies just as aptly to metrics: "Show
me someone who wishes to refute metaphysics and I'll show you a
metaphysician with a rival system.")

The key is to gather as rich, diverse and comprehensive a spectrum of
candidate metrics as possible, and then test and validate them
jointly, discipline by discipline, against the existing criteria that
each discipline already knows and trusts (such as expert peer
judgment) so as to derive initial weights for the metrics that prove
to be well enough correlated with the discipline's trusted existing
criteria to be useable for prediction on their own.

Prediction of what? Prediction of future "success" by whatever a
discipline's (or university's or funder's) criteria for success and
value might be. There is room for putting a much greater weight on the
kinds of writings that fellow-specialists within the discipline find
useful, as Professor Collini has rightly singled out, rather than,
say, success in promoting those writings to the general public. The
general public may well derive more benefit indirectly, from the
impact of specialised work on specialists, than from its direct impact
on themselves. And of course industrial applications are an impact
metric only for some disciplines, not others.

Ceterum censeo: A book-citation impact metric is long overdue, and
would be an especially useful metric for the Humanities.

Harnad, S. (2001) Research access, impact and assessment. Times Higher
Education Supplement 1487: p. 16.

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.

Brody, T., Carr, L., Harnad, S. and Swan, A. (2007) Time to Convert to
Metrics. Research Fortnight pp. 17-18.

Harnad, S. (2008) Open Access Book-Impact and "Demotic" Metrics Open
Access Archivangelism October 10, 2008.

Harnad, S. (2008) Validating Research Performance Metrics Against Peer
Rankings. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics 8 (11)
doi:10.3354/esep00088 Special Issue on "The Use And Misuse Of
Bibliometric Indices In Evaluating Scholarly Performance"

Harnad, S. (2009) Open Access Scientometrics and the UK Research
Assessment Exercise. Scientometrics 79 (1)
Received on Sun Nov 29 2009 - 02:18:50 GMT

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