Institutions have made little progress against the misuse of research metrics when hiring and promoting academics.
A survey of British institutions reveals that few have taken concrete steps to stop the much-criticized misuse of research metrics in the evaluation of academics’ work. The results offer an early insight into global efforts to clamp down on such practices.
More than three-quarters of the 96 research organizations that responded to the survey said they did not have a research-metrics policy, according to data presented at a London meeting on metrics on 8 February. The same number — 75 — had not signed up to the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), an international concord that aims to eliminate the misuse of research metrics, which was developed in San Francisco in December 2012.
“It was disappointing to learn that so many institutions have no metrics policy at all, but I think the survey will come as a wake-up call,” says Stephen Curry, a structural biologist at Imperial College London who chairs the DORA steering group. On 7 February, Curry announced that the group had received funding and support that would allow it to start practical work beyond mere campaigning.
DORA calls for panels responsible for academic promotion and hiring to stop misusing metrics such as the journal impact factor — which measures the average number of citations accumulated by papers in a given journal over two years — as a way to assess individual researchers. It urges panels to assess the content of papers and quality of research instead.
Worldwide, some 450 organizations — including universities, funders and journals — and 12,000 individuals have now signed DORA. On 7 February, seven UK research-funding agencies that together disburse about £3 billion (US$4.1 billion) a year announced that they, too, had signed up. But only 16 UK universities have signed the declaration, says Curry.