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Rank Irrelevance : How Academia Lost Its Way

"It is impossible to abandon rankings outright, since the impulse to grade things seems hard–wired into human nature. Rankings also serve an important bureaucratic purpose. University administrators crave simple metrics of performance, which help guide decisions on where to invest scarce resources. They steer students and their parents toward some institutions and away from others. Finally, they help government and philanthropists make decisions about where to award lucrative grants and donations. In other words, rankings save work, eliminating the time–consuming tasks of reading of book manuscripts or carefully learning about the substance of academic fields.

The ease of using them explains, in part, why university rankings are such big business. Today, there is a veritable cottage industry for them. They run the gamut from the simple U.S. News & World Report to the NRC approach. University rankings have also gone global: foreign scholars, new private companies such as Quacquarelli Symonds, and long–standing publications such as The Times Higher Education Supplement have all entered the rankings market to tell professors where they sit in the global intellectual pecking order. ...

stakeholders within and outside academia should take all rankings with a grain of salt. Even the most sophisticated ones have flaws and biases, and capture only indirectly and poorly important things such as creative thinking and exciting teaching. Rankings of all kinds should be downgraded in university decision–making. Of course, this means that university faculty and administrators will have to put in the hard work of familiarizing themselves with the substance of the academic fields they oversee. But doing so will ultimately produce better scholarship that also speaks to audiences outside university walls."

(Peter Campbell and Michael C. Desch, 16 September 2013, Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.)



academia • academic fields • bureaucratic purpose • contribution to societycultural impactdemonstrable valuediverse metrics • grant money • lecturersnarrow measuresnew measurement frontier • pecking order • performance metricsperformativitypublic value • Quacquarelli Symonds • ranking • rankings • rankings market • significancestakeholdersTimes Higher Education Supplement • university academics • university administrators • university decision-making • university faculty • university rankings


Simon Perkins
29 APRIL 2012

Citations and impact factors are old hat: the Web 2.0 generation needs metrics to match today's scholarship

"As a young academic, I am reliably informed that the landscape of scholarly communication is not what it was 20 years ago. But, despite all that has changed, it seems that we still largely rely upon the same tired and narrow measures of quality and academic impact – namely, citation counts and journal impact factors.

As someone who has used the internet in almost every aspect of their academic work to date, it's hard for me to ignore the fact that these mechanisms, in predating the web, largely ignore its effects.

By holding up these measures as incentives, we appear to have our eye firmly fixed on the hammer and not the nail, adjusting our research habits in order to maximise scores and ignoring issues such as why we publish in the first place."

(Matthew Gamble, 28 July 2011, Times Higher Education)



academic blogs • academic discussion • academic impactacademic papersacademic work • alt-metrics • alt-metrics community • alt-metrics movement • • assessing impactassessment of scholarshipblogCERNcitation • citation counts • citation-based measures • citation-based measures of impactdiverse metricsengaged scholars • existing measures • funding decisions • Harvard Universityimpact • impressions of impact • incentive • Internetjournal impact • journal impact factors • journal output • measurementmeasurement of impactMendeleymetricsnarrow measures • narrow measures of academic impact • narrow measures of quality • new measurement frontieronline • online reference-management service • peer review • platform for scholarly communication • practices of scholarly communication • products of scholarly communication • publication of academic papersquantitative study of scholarship • ReaderMeter • • real-time readership • reference manager • research habits • research impactresearch output • Rouse Ball • Samuel Arbesman • scholarly activity • scholarly activity on the web • scholarly communication • scientific discoveries • second scientific revolution • Tim Berners-Lee • timely indications of impact • Timothy Gowers • traces of scholarship • TwitterUniversity of CambridgeUniversity of North Carolina • utility of the web • Web 2.0 • web as a platform • young academics


Simon Perkins

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