Is signing DORA that responsible?

Tape measure by Marcy Leigh CC-BY-NC-SA

So, I’ve just returned from the excellent JISC/CNI conference on advances in digital scholarship where they had a panel session on metrics.  Once again, there were tutting noises from the front about the “disappointing” number of UK universities that hadn’t signed up to DORA.  Stephen Curry’s latest blog post urging universities to sign was highlighted and others even tweeted that the lack of UK university engagement with DORA was a “disgrace”.


Now I come from one of those “disgraceful”universities who haven’t signed.  To be strictly accurate, we’ve given DORA serious consideration and decided not to sign.  And at the root of our decision was not a feeling that DORA goes too far, but that it doesn’t go far enough.  Sure, DORA addresses a false reliance on the Journal Impact Factor but it makes no mention of a whole host of other important principles around the responsible use of metrics as outlined in the Leiden Principles.  As I’ve written in another blog post, were the Leiden Principles available for signing, I wouldn’t hesitate.

So, instead of signing DORA we have formed a working group of senior managers and academic leads to give proper consideration to the broad range of issues around the responsible use of metrics.  We have used the measured and wide-ranging Leiden Principles as our guide.  We have done our own analyses.  We have thought deeply about the university’s strategic aims and principles, and what impact of the use of bibliometrics might have on those. We have generated a list of indicators that we think could be applied most fairly, and written detailed caveats about their use.  It’s been a lot of work.  A lot more work than entering the words “Loughborough University” into a web site a clicking send.  And I know from working amongst a community of other Bibliometricians around the UK that Loughborough is not alone in taking this steep and thorny way in favour of the primrose path of dalliance.

Thus, I think we need to be careful not to read too much into the absence of a particular university’s name on the list of DORA signatories.  Yes, it might be that some institutions have not given the responsible use of metrics a moments thought, but others will have given it a lot more thought than those who have blithely signed DORA.  At the end of the day we need to ask whether signing the DORA principles will give us a better outcome than developing our own locally relevant, properly debated, carefully implemented and monitored principles.  And for us, it is undoubtedly the latter.

Having run a survey on the adoption of DORA last year, we’re now keen to see what advances the UK university community have made along the road to developing statements around the responsible use of metrics.  Whatever situation you find yourself in we’d welcome your participation in a brief 5-question survey:

The results will be shared in a future blog post.

Thank you!

Elizabeth Gadd


6 Replies to “Is signing DORA that responsible?”

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