You are here

The Metric Tide

The Metric Tide
Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management

First Edition

January 2016 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

‘Represents the culmination of an 18-month-long project that aims to be the definitive review of this important topic. Accompanied by a scholarly literature review, some new analysis, and a wealth of evidence and insight... the report is a tour de force; a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take stock.’
– Dr Steven Hill, Head of Policy, HEFCE, LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog

‘A must-read if you are interested in having a deeper understanding of research culture, management issues and the range of information we have on this field. It should be disseminated and discussed within institutions, disciplines and other sites of research collaboration.’
– Dr Meera Sabaratnam, Lecturer in International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog

Metrics evoke a mixed reaction from the research community. A commitment to using data and evidence to inform decisions makes many of us sympathetic, even enthusiastic, about the prospect of granular, real-time analysis of our own activities. Yet we only have to look around us at the blunt use of metrics to be reminded of the pitfalls.

Metrics hold real power: they are constitutive of values, identities and livelihoods. How to exercise that power to positive ends is the focus of this book. Using extensive evidence-gathering, analysis and consultation, the authors take a thorough look at potential uses and limitations of research metrics and indicators. They explore the use of metrics across different disciplines, assess their potential contribution to the development of research excellence and impact and consider the changing ways in which universities are using quantitative indicators in their management systems. Finally, they consider the negative or unintended effects of metrics on various aspects of research culture.

Including an updated introduction from James Wilsdon, the book proposes a framework for responsible metrics and makes a series of targeted recommendations to show how responsible metrics can be applied in research management, by funders, and in the next cycle of the Research Excellence Framework.

The metric tide is certainly rising. Unlike King Canute, we have the agency and opportunity – and in this book, a serious body of evidence – to influence how it washes through higher education and research.

Measuring up
The rising tide
Rough indications
Disciplinary dilemmas
Judgement and peer review
Management by metrics
Cultures of counting
Sciences in transition
Reflections on REF
Responsible metrics

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics welcomes The Metric Tide as a valuable contribution to the development and review of the assessment of academic research. The report provides a thoughtful analysis of the effects of the use of metrics on different aspects of research culture. 

Nuffield Council on Bioethics

The Metric Tide means that we really are in a stronger position to say no to simple metrics. Which in many ways is regrettable. It means, as successive governments require us collectively to be assessed, monitored and scored, huge amounts of time, energy and consequently money will need to continue to be devoted to this exercise...However, there are some really helpful snippets of information to be found in the report and useful recommendations for different parts of the academic ecosystem...Naturally I was interested in what they had to say about equality and diversity issues. And what they said seemed very constructive and worthwhile for the community to reflect upon.

Professor Dame Athene Donald FRS
Master of Churchill College, University of Cambridge

This very thoughtful review, which consulted widely in the academic community, gives us a sound basis for the responsible use of metrics in research management. Metrics need to be transparent and carefully chosen, and should always supplement and support expert judgement, rather than replace it.

University of Sheffield response to The Metric Tide

By far the most thorough bit of work I’ve seen on the topic. It was written by a group, chaired by James Wilsdon, to investigate the possible role of metrics in the assessment of research…There is the inevitable bit of talk about the "judicious" use of metrics to support peer review (with no guidance about what judicious use means in real life) but this doesn’t detract much from an excellent and thorough job.

Professor David Colquhoun FRS
University College London

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1: Measuring Up

For instructors

This book is not available as an inspection copy. For more information contact your local sales representative.

Purchasing options

Please select a format:

ISBN: 9781473973060

SAGE Knowledge is the ultimate social sciences digital library for students, researchers, and faculty. Hosting more than 4,400 titles, it includes an expansive range of SAGE eBook and eReference content, including scholarly monographs, reference works, handbooks, series, professional development titles, and more.

The platform allows researchers to cross-search and seamlessly access a wide breadth of must-have SAGE book and reference content from one source.

SAGE Knowledge brings together high-quality content from across our imprints, including CQ Press and Corwin titles.