Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Rutgers Faculty Rebels Against Use Of Metrics To Assess Their Scholarly Performance

AAFollowing up on my previous post:  Inside Higher Ed, Refusing to Be Measured:

The faculty of the Graduate School at Rutgers University in New Brunswick took a stand against Academic Analytics on Tuesday, resolving that administrators shouldn’t use proprietary information about faculty productivity in decisions about divvying up resources among departments, or those affecting the makeup of the faculty, graduate teaching assignments, fellowships and grant writing. They also demanded to view their personal data profiles by Sept. 1. The vote was 114 to 2.

The new resolution is similar to one passed by the faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences in December, in that it expresses concern about the accuracy of the Academic Analytics data and the implications for academic freedom. Rutgers signed a nearly $500,000 contract with the data-mining company in 2013, in exchange for information about the scholarly productivity of individual professors and academic units and how they compare to those at peer institutions. Yet some faculty members who have seen their personal profiles -- an opportunity most professors haven’t had -- say the data are in some cases wrong, under- or overcounting publications. Many faculty critics also say the data lack nuance or accounting for research quality and innovation, and could chill the scholarly inquiry of junior faculty members in particular as they seek to boost their “stats” ahead of applying for tenure.

“The entirely quantitative methods and variables employed by Academic Analytics -- a corporation intruding upon academic freedom, peer evaluation and shared governance -- hardly capture the range and quality of scholarly inquiry, while utterly ignoring the teaching, service and civic engagement that faculty perform,” the graduate faculty resolution says. “Taken on their own terms, the measures of books, articles, awards, grants and citations within the Academic Analytics database frequently undercount, overcount or otherwise misrepresent the achievements of individual scholars,” and those measures “have the potential to influence, redirect and narrow scholarship as administrators incite faculty and departments to compete for higher scores.”

The School of Arts and Sciences’ resolution also demanded that Academic Analytics not be used in promotion and tenure decisions.

Pro-Academic Analytics administrators at Rutgers and elsewhere, meanwhile, say the service is just one tool among many used to track scholarly productivity, and that more information is better information. Even staff members at Academic Analytics say their data shouldn’t ever replace traditional forms of peer evaluation, but rather supplement it with facts, figures and comparisons that institutions might otherwise attempt to gather on their own -- likely less accurately and at greater expense.

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Assessing academic productivity? At my institution, I have a chair and a dean who seem to do that rather well.

Posted by: Steve White | May 19, 2016 9:03:12 PM

Administration are no longer interested in education or re\search but pure and simple money that they can spend. Look at the huge increase in administrators they are using that to build their base. Faculty on the other hand are looking to preserve their perks and so are isolating themselves further and further from students, with more adjuncts and grad students handling the load. It is a bubble that is going to burst and honestly should. The students are not getting what they are paying for, but then higher ed is no longer about Ed but getting a job, or keeping a job or expanding an empire depending on where you are in the food chain.

Posted by: Old Guy | May 20, 2016 5:27:32 AM

The sad part is the graduate faculty who can't use the word "incite" properly.

Posted by: Cromulent | May 20, 2016 7:44:06 AM

Nobody likes being evaluated. Particularly by the beancounters.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | May 20, 2016 9:06:56 AM