Why Metrics Cannot Measure Research Quality: A Response to the HEFCE Consultation

Hmm research quality…
A never ending debate

The Disorder Of Things

Pacioli Euclid Measurement

The Higher Education Funding Council for England are reviewing the idea of using metrics (or citation counts) in research assessment. We think using metrics to measure research quality is a terrible idea, and we’ll be sending the response to them below explaining why. The deadline for receiving responses is 12pm on Monday 30th June (to metrics@hefce.ac.uk). If you want to add an endorsement to this paper to be added to what we send to HEFCE, please write your name, role and institutional affiliation below in the comments, or email either ms140[at]soas.ac.uk or p.c.kirby[at]sussex.ac.uk before Saturday 28th June. If you want to write your own response, please feel free to borrow as you like from the ideas below, or append the PDF version of our paper available here.

Response to the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment
June 2014

Authored by:
Dr Meera Sabaratnam, Lecturer…

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Publish or Peril – Why we need to change this thinking!

100% agree with this.
We need to change the “publish or perish” way of thinking!

To PhD and beyond!

When I was trying to break into my area, I went and spoke with a leader in the field. He picked up my resume, flicked to my publications and told me I would never do much in the field as I had not published enough. I was told to publish anything and everything to increase my publications. Nothing else seemed to matter on my resume, the awards I had won, the skills I had picked up, my degrees, none of it. All that mattered was that a lack of publication history meant I was unemployable. Some of the comments I have been reading from my first blog post have also supported this idea. I will quote what was said here :

From citizensci : “Only worthwhile and valuable research gets published. Otherwise, it’s a useless exercise that sits in your lab notebook that no one reads about or knows about…

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Teaching philosophy

I’ve been working on a Statement of teaching philosophy that many universities require for their applicants. It’s pretty straightforward and I guess one can use it as an example.


Statement of teaching philosophy

As an instructor, my teaching philosophy is to help students learn how to learn. In the information age, it is vital for students to develop the required skills that improve their abilities to deal with the huge amount of information we have at our fingertips.

During my studies, I have been passionate about organizational psychology; therefore, the courses I would like to teach include an introduction to organizational studies, with a focus on topics like organizations, work groups and work teams, motivation, performance and cooperation. More specifically, I am able to offer an overview of organizational behavior. By the end of the course, my students will be equipped with information that will help them understand and explain what organizations are, how they function, and how they can be managed in the most effective ways.

Another course I would like to teach is leadership and management. In this course, I would focus on the management of the organizations and talk about the 4 different leadership styles: transformational, authoritarian, transactional and laissez-faire and the impact these styles have on teams, business units and the organization. By the end of the course, students will be able to identify and distinguish between the different leadership styles, to state which traits characterize which type of leader and recognize the effects that one type of leader has on the team and organization.

For the courses that I would like to teach, I set the following learning objectives for my students: engagement with the learning material, work-group activities and critical thinking. In the following paragraphs I explain how I would accomplish these objectives.


Engaging with the learning material

Students are encouraged to do the readings before class. The list of readings includes mandatory plus additional readings. The latter supplemental list makes it possible for students to be responsible for how deep they want to dive into a specific topic. During each class, I will present a short overview of the topic and then discuss case studies. The students will then be asked to identify the concepts and the theories from the readings and apply them to very concrete, specific situations. They will be trained to identify how each theory is able to explain the phenomena and where other theories might come in to play.


Work-group activities

Students will be required to work in groups to foster collaborative learning and expose them to individual differences in understanding theories and concepts. By challenging each other, students learn to engage in productive relationships.


Critical thinking

Another important objective of my course is to develop students’ critical thinking. I want them to be capable to identify how reliable a theory is and to what extent it can be applied to certain cases. Hopefully, my students will have no difficulties in offering an extensive number of solutions to various organizational problems and distinguishing between optimal and unfocused solutions.

One of the main challenges I have faced in the classroom is trying to get students to think in an inter-disciplinary fashion. By thinking outside of their disciplines, students are able to grasp the bigger picture and to understand the way different disciplines explain similar constructs. In order to address this challenge, I would give them assignments to talk to their roommates from different disciplines and come up with a presentation about a concept that they developed together. I have been pleased to see how such an assignment sparks not only interest but also a shift in perspective.

My research in the area in organizational trust contributes significantly to my teaching. As I am interested in how trust develops over time, I plan to apply strategies of improving and developing trust within dyad and work-groups in class. I will pay great attention to conflict resolution and to re-storing trust. My key assumption is that teaching without a solid foundation of trust cannot spark changes in students.


teaching philosophy

Don’t get pregnant. If you can help it…

This sounds very well researched and makes a lot of sense.
So whatever you do, don’t get pregnant during your PhD.

The Thesis Whisperer

This post is by Walter Reinhardt, a PhD student at ANU’s Fenner school where he is investigating demand management policy for residential water and electricity use. Walter is now at the pointy end of his degree, but he took time out to play with the stats and tell you what the likelihood is of you encountering a major life event during your PhD.

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with my PhD supervisors. Gave them draft chapters, chapter outlines and results enough for a couple more. I asked them, in their experience, if they thought it could be submitted by mid next year and what advice they’d give me if I went for it. Straight off the bat, one of them remarked: “Don’t get pregnant.”

We laughed.

It’s kind of hard for me to do that. I’m a dude with an unappealing mo’ for a start. But…

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Great teaching changes everything

great teacher

Education is the key to building sustainable societies and individuals. In this essay I focus on identifying and describing the qualities of great teachers. If we understand the attributes of a great teacher we can develop instruments for measuring their skills. Then the instruments will make it possible to create a training program for turning out quality teachers. First I present my own experiences with great teachers and focus on examples of how great teachers have significantly impacted their students. Then I will identify the abilities of great teachers that we can measure in a university setting. In conclusion, I discuss how these can be developed into training to guide and inspire our teachers.

During my university studies, I came across many great teachers. Probably the most significant was my statistics professor. He was a very professional, determined and intelligent person. He had recently become a professor after having worked for more than thirty years for the Center of Military Aerospace, being in charge of the Psychology Department. Throughout his work experience, he had gained much insight into topics such as statistical analysis, psychological testing, assessment, training and people management. During class he was always concise and clear about the information he was trying to get across and was able to keep the students involved,. One of his greatest qualities was his passion for teaching: you could see his joy in explaining and discussing the different concepts. His ability fostered critical thinking and excitement and sparked changes in his students. All these characteristics plus charisma made him one of the greatest teachers I have had so far.

You can tell what a great teacher is like by the positive impact he has on his students. For example, once I started taking the statistics class and interacting with my professor, I noticed how much changed in the way I looked at psychological phenomena. I drifted away from snapshots and started understanding how often psychological concepts are interdependent in relationships like causalities and correlations. My critical thinking also improved and I think this was the most important skill I developed during that course. The fact that I was no longer accepting hypotheses as they were presented but started analyzing them and thinking about whether they made sense or not, helps me still in my everyday work.

When looking at the university setting, the characteristics of a great teacher can be organized into two main areas: soft-skills and hard-skills. Soft-skills refer to abilities that include leadership, time management, excellent communication abilities, strong work ethic and enthusiasm. Hard-skills on the other hand combine qualifications (certificates, degrees) with previous experience and computer and word processing knowledge.

Universities could use these characteristics to develop a training program to inspire teachers. By cultivating first of all awareness, teachers might become more critical and self-conscious. Triggering change in teachers may lead to change in students and therefore in society.