Paul L. Caron

Monday, January 29, 2018

University Of Texas Faculty Rebels Against Use Of Metrics To Assess Scholarly Performance

Texas Logo (2018)Following up on my previous posts:

Inside Higher Ed, UT-Austin Professors Join Campaign Against Faculty-Productivity Company:

The University of Texas at Austin this week became one of the most prestigious research institutions to join a faculty rebellion against Academic Analytics, a data company that promises to identify low-performing professors.

UT-Austin’s Faculty Council voted on Monday to approve a resolution recommending that the university make no use of Academic Analytics, especially concerning promotions, tenure, salaries, curriculum, and other faculty issues.

As with previous faculty protests of the company at Georgetown and Rutgers Universities, UT-Austin faculty members cited concerns about the accuracy of Academic Analytics’ data, the lack of opportunities for professors to correct errors, and the inappropriateness of numerical rankings for making complex decisions about people and education.

Academic Analytics’ definitions of scholarly productivity "are likely to skew, redirect, narrow, and otherwise have an outsized influence on the type and quality of scholarship produced by UT-Austin faculty," the resolution said.

A spokesman for UT-Austin said the administration had made no decisions yet about if and how it would use the company. "Concerns from faculty about new data tools, like Academic Analytics, are the reason UT-Austin has taken a very cautious and intentional approach," the spokesman, Joe E. Williams, said in a written statement.

Yet faculty members cast doubt on that statement by citing a 2014 document, issued by the 15-campus UT system, that described the flagship, in Austin, as having already begun using Academic Analytics data for "examining faculty productivity compared to peers in the field by program," and for "assessing program quality via the placement and productivity of Ph.D. graduates." ...

[T] he American Association of University Professors issued a statement in March 2016 urging caution toward Academic Analytics. "While such services promise ‘objective’ data about faculty productivity," the AAUP said, "some of the firm’s metrics lack any qualitative dimension."

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The wholesale rejection of productivity metrics seems misguided. Develop standards for which metrics are relevant, which procedural safeguards are needed and the extent to which the metrics can be used in administrative decision making. These broad criticisms of data can be applied to all HR and admissions decisions, but institutions have found a way to balance competing considerations. We need some sanity and reason here, not knee-jerk reactions.

Posted by: HTA | Jan 31, 2018 8:21:52 AM

It’s in Austin – figures.

Posted by: SallyMJ | Jan 29, 2018 11:46:00 AM

Do any of the faculty in question support metric-based compensation for clinicians?

If so, welcome to my world---as someone a bit further down the path let me share that you're gonna like even less than you think.

If not, welcome to the fight---and your suspicions are correct, it's not about "quality" it's about siphoning resources for graft and jobbery. It's not just gonna cost you money and it's not gonna just cost you time, it's gonna cost your joy.

And no healthcare and higher education are not two different things---but keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better

Posted by: Robert Davis | Jan 29, 2018 11:11:23 AM