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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
22 APRIL 2011

The History of Instant Runoff Voting ('Alternative Vote' in Australia)

"The key the to the development of instant runoff voting (IRV) was the invention of the single transferable vote (STV) in the 1850's by Thomas Hare in England and Carl Andrae in Denmark. The essence of STV is the concept that a citizen would have one vote in a particular contest, but that that vote might be transferred from one candidate to another according to each voter's ranking of candidates, depending on the aggregate result of other voters' ballots. Hare devised this balloting and counting procedure in creating a system of proportional representation.

IRV, however, is not a system of proportional representation. Instead, IRV uses the STV innovation in a winner–take–all context. Instant runoff voting, using a preference ballot, was invented by an American, W. R. Ware, a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, around 1870. The first known use of IRV in a governmental election was in 1893 in Queensland, Australia. However, this was a modified version of IRV in which all candidates except the top two were eliminated in a batch rather than sequentially, as in the pure form of IRV. The 'staggered runoff' concept that we understand today as IRV was first used in Western Australia in 1908.

IRV, called 'alternative vote' in Australia, came to be used in most Australian legislative elections, although it was superseded by Hare's STV system of proportional representation for the federal Senate. IRV is still used for electing members of the lower house. IRV is also used in other nations, such as Ireland. In the United Kingdom, the Jenkins Commission, appointed by the new government, released their report October 29 that recommends the use of IRV for electing the House of Commons (with proportional representation achieved through the election of additional members based on the popular vote for parties nationally). ...

The single transferable vote is a more common voting procedure in the U.S. than most of us realize. Even the Academy Awards uses STV in determining their finalists. The American Political Science Association (APSA), the organization of political science professors, uses IRV to elect their national president, since political scientists understand that IRV is the fairest and simplest way to elect a single winner from a field of candidates."

(Center for Voting and Democracy, Washington, D.C.)



1850s1893advocacyAlternative Vote • American Political Science Association • APSA • Australia • Australian Federal Senate • Australian Lower House • Carl Andrae • contest • counting procedure • Denmark • election • fairnessHouse of CommonsInstant Runoff VotingIRV • Jenkins Commission • legislative elections • Massachusetts Institute of TechnologymisrepresentationParliamentpolicypolitical representationpolitical sciencepoliticspopular vote • preference ballot • proportional representation • QueenslandrankingRepublic of Irelandsimplicity • Single Transferable Vote • single winner • STV • systemThomas HaretransferUKvotingvoting system • W. R. Ware


Simon Perkins
15 APRIL 2011

Demise of first generation meme tracker 'Popdex'

"Popdex was initially created and developed as a website popularity index. As such, many people, bloggers especially, linked in to Popdex in order to increase their popularity. A site would receive its popularity ranking based on the number of visitors and pings it sent to Popdex through the link on its site. In fact, you may have arrived at this article as a result of one of those links! If so, we welcome you!

Popdex also used to be a place to get the latest news or post an online gamer's profile. Within the profile, many gamers would leave tips, strategies and cheats for their favorite online games.

Times have changed since those days and now Popdex has entered a new phase of web development. The site is hanging in the balance between what it once was, a website popularity index; what it now is, a collection of informational articles on a variety of subjects and what it will become, yet unknown.

Take some time to browse around the site. You may find some wisdom here. Give yourself a moment to think and to imagine what you would like to see the Popdex website become. How would you develop this website if you were given the title of Podex web developer? Then, send us a message and tell us about it. If we like your idea, you could be featured on the front page of the new Popdex as a premier web idea developer!"

(Popdex admin,–development/popdex–web–development)


oggers • blogospherecessationchanging timescollectionDiggdigitaldigital culture • digital recycling • discontinued • first generation • historyICTindex • InfoSearch Media • linking activity • marginalisationmeme • meme tracker • memetracker • new medianewsonline profiles • pings • Popdex • popularity index • popularity rankingrankingReddit • Shanti Bradford • social ranking • spam • tool • top blog posts • visitors


Simon Perkins
21 JULY 2009

University policy set to undermine contributions made by early career researchers and new knowledge areas

The "University of Canterbury [New Zealand] is looking to fine colleges that do not have enough research active staff is a further worrying sign that universities are misusing PBRF [Performance Based Research Fund] information, says TEU deputy secretary Nanette Cormack.

'PBRF scores were designed and intended as tools for government funding allocation, not for universities to use to punish individual colleges and the staff within them.'

'Using PBRF data as a proxy for internal management is an abdication by managers of their responsibilities.'

'The reality is that it is not realistic to expect that every college at the University of Canterbury , or any other university, will get high PBRF rankings. For instance new academics can take time to find their feet as researchers, but colleges should not be discouraged from employing bright new academics in case they get hit with future years of $40,000 fines.'

'It's also unfair to expect recently merged or subsumed units, such as the College of Education, without a history of active research, to be turning out internationally recognised research in a short space of time.'

'If the university's central focus becomes chasing research dollars it needs to be very aware that it does not let its other role, teaching, suffer. Academics need good professional development opportunities and support to become good researchers, not punishments for failing to live up to overly ambitious targets,' concluded Ms Cormack."
(New Zealand Tertiary Education Union, 17 July 2009)

[While this move will inevitably provide a useful boost for traditional research areas (operating within accepted discourses) it will also act to limit opportunities for early career researchers and devalue contributions drawn from new knowledge areas.]


Simon Perkins
02 MAY 2009

TubeMogul: online video analytics and distribution

"TubeMogul is the first online video analytics and distribution company serving publishers large and small who need independent information about video performance on the Internet and automated upload to the Web's top video sharing sites."


aggregationanalyticsdigital mediadistribution • hits • ownershiprankingsocial mediasolutiontechnology • • video


Rob Mcloughlin

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