Arts metrics plan revealed

9 September 2006

An expert group set up by the Arts & Humanities Research Council to examine alternative ways to assess research has developed a complex metrics-based system using quantitative information about a university department’s research activity and research outcomes to determine how billions of pounds in research funding would be distributed in the future.

The system includes a 100-point scale, in which points are allocated for various aspects of a department’s performance. …

The plan was this week put to panel members of the 2008 RAE for consultation.

Professor Michael Worton, UCL Vice-Provost (Academic & International), who chairs the expert group, stressed that the model was not conclusive and was supposed to provoke debate rather than preclude alternatives.

But he said he hoped that the final recommendations the group made in mid-October could eventually apply to research across the disciplines, potentially rivalling metrics systems already proposed by the Government for judging science research.

“This is definitely not a blueprint for the future,” he said.

Whatever system the group finally comes up with will be mapped against the outcomes of the 2001 and 2008 RAEs, Professor Worton said, and could be calibrated to work for all subjects, not just the arts and humanities or social sciences.

“We want to find something that fits all the research councils,” he added. …

 “People see metrics and think bibliometrics and that’s only one type,” Professor Worton said.

“We’re not just looking for something to fit the RAE but are taking a real long-term look at research evaluation. Whatever we do will influence behaviour so we need to look in a long-term way,” he said.

Anthea Lipsett, ‘The Times Higher Education Supplement’