Refusing to Be Measured

Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, May 11, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The battle shaping up over Academic Analytics is an interesting one. The service basically measures the publication and citation activity of some 270,000 faculty members. As their website states, "Academic Analytics' unique "flower chart" affords the viewer a visualization of the overall productivity of the faculty within a given academic discipline. Variables on different scales (per capita, per grant dollar, per publication, etc.) and measuring different areas of scholarly productivity can be viewed simultaneously on a single comparative scale based on national benchmarks for the discipline."

But the subject of this article is the response of professors at Rutgers who are objecting to being assessed by the service. One major concern is that it is inaccurate. This is especially a problem given the difficulties faculty have seeing their own profiles, violating with the Leiden Manifesto recommendation to "keep data collection and analytical processes open, transparent and simple." Moreover, "the data lack nuance or accounting for research quality and innovation." But suppose these conditions could all be met: would there then be an objection to being assessed in this manner? Or are these conditions which, in principle, could never be met?

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