The Role of Metrics in Research Assessment

Monday, February 15, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Harding (Marriott Wardman Park)
James Wilsdon, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, United Kingdom
Citations, journal impact factors, H-indices, even tweets and Facebook likes – there are no end of quantitative measures that can now be used to assess the quality and wider impacts of research. But how robust and reliable are such indicators, and what weight – if any –should we give them in the management of the research system?

James Wilsdon recently chaired an Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management for the UK government, which looked in detail at these questions. Its final report The Metric Tide (published in July 2015) explored the use of metrics across the full range of academic disciplines, and assessed their potential contribution to processes of research assessment. It also looked at how universities themselves use metrics, at the rise of league tables and rankings, at the relationship between metrics and issues of equality and diversity, and at the potential for ‘gaming’ that can arise from the use of particular indicators.

James Wilsdon will outline the findings of the UK metrics review and explore links to related initiatives in Europe (including a new European Commission expert panel on altmetrics) and internationally (such as the Leiden Manifesto). He will end by proposing a more responsible agenda for the use of metrics in research policy and management.


James Wilsdon joined the University of Sheffield in January 2016 as Director of Impact and Engagement for the Faculty of Social Sciences, which he combines with a role as Professor of Research Policy in the Department of Politics. James is also Director of the Nexus Network, a £1.8m ESRC initiative to link research & policy across food, energy, water and the environment. Since 2013, he has been Chair of the Campaign for Social Science. James recently chaired a review of the role of metrics in the management of the UK’s research system, which published its final report The Metric Tide in July 2015. Building on this, he is now leading an expert panel for the European Commission on the role of altmetrics.  Previously, James worked as Professor of Science and Democracy at SPRU, University of Sussex (2011-2015), Director of Science Policy at the Royal Society (2008-2011) and Head of Science and Innovation at Demos (2001-2008). James contributes regularly to the media and is one of the editors of the Guardian's 'Political Science' blog. In 2015, he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. You can find him on twitter @jameswilsdon.