Measuring science: The use of metrics in assessing impact, innovation and excellence in modern academia

This project concerns the governance of science with an emphasis on how research is made auditable through the use of quantitative techniques; especially bibliometrics.

Start date

The project investigates how a ´metric culture´ affects the research practices of the individual scholar, and it examines the consequences that bibliometric rankings have on the role and purpose of the university. Publication patterns as well as questionnaires will be used in order to examine how bibliometric evaluation influences the practices of scholars. Studies will also be made of university rankings and their use in promoting the ‘excellent’ university. My focus on the actual materials of measurement distinguishes the project from previous accounts of changes in the governance of science. In tying the practice, the institutional and the political level together my project aims to provide a unique perspective on the emergence of a ‘metrics culture´ in academia. Using a theoretical stance in theories about the ´audit´ and ´risk´ society it promises to take the analysis beyond discussions about different models of evaluating, or indicators of impact, and to place it in a larger context of social and organizational change. This broader perspective is required in order to understand the co-evolution of governance systems and techniques of measurement; a perspective where ‘metrics’ is not only a symptom but also a practice that in itself contributes to these developments.

The project is financed by VR (international postdoc) and research will be conduced in close cooperation with researchers at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies, CWTS, Leiden University. In particular I will work with the members of the “Evaluation practices in context” (EPIC-group) lead by Sarah de Rijcke.