UK universities respond to the Metric Tide’s call to do metrics responsibly

In September 2015 I ran a short survey to see how institutions were responding to the Metric Tide report‘s call to take a responsible approach to metrics and to consider signing the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). Only three of the survey respondents had signed DORA (although 5 were considering it), but nine respondents were thinking about developing their own set of principles for the responsible use of metrics. In the year that followed there was very little movement on signing DORA. However, support for one of the key elements of DORA – a backlash against the Journal Impact Factor – has grown, and with it further condemnation for HEIs who have not signed. However, as indicated in an earlier blog post not every institution that has failed to sign DORA has failed to do anything. With an ear to the ground via the Lis-Bibliometrics and ARMA Metric SIG lists, I was aware of a growing movement towards the development of in-house Statements of Responsible metrics. So, I put together a second survey to capture some of this activity.

measuring-tapeCredit: Laineys Repertoire CC-BY

The second survey had slightly more respondents (26 versus the original 22) but the low response rate still indicates that this is a fledgling area. This was further confirmed by the fact that none of the respondents were yet at a stage where they could say they had completed their own set of published principles (although one said they’d agreed some principles internally and were not intending to publish). However, compared to a year ago where just nine were thinking of developing their own principles, this year seven were now at a stage where they were actively developing these and a further five were thinking about it. Only two had considered developing their own principles and rejected the idea compared to five who had considered the idea of signing DORA and rejected it last year.

Of the 13 who were developing their own set of principles (or had considered this internally), no-one said they were basing these on DORA. Instead, over half (8) said they were using the Leiden Manifesto as the basis, and two indicated they were basing their work on the principles of another University. One respondent said the Metric Tide Responsible Metrics Framework was informing their thinking. Similar to last year the development of principles were being guided by a range of staff, most of which were from the Research Office, Senior Managers and Library, although in different proportions.

So, the sector is stirring, and The Bibliomagician blog is starting to document all the Statements of Responsible Metrics they can find. Other moves are also afoot to help universities to do metrics responsibly and well. The Association for Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) is offering a course to its members on the Responsible Use of Metrics in May 2017, and the Lis-Bibliometrics Forum is planning an event on this theme in September 2017. The Lis-Bibliometrics Forum are also facilitating some Elsevier-sponsored work on developing a set of bibliometric competencies for use by practitioners to ensure the staff supporting metrics in their institutions have the skills and knowledge they need. This should report in January 2017 and a workshop is planned at the UKSG conference in April. Of course the biggest news in this area is the recent launch of the Responsible Metrics Forum by a group of research funders, sector bodies and infrastructure experts.  We’re on our way! And 2017 should see an even greater set of resources available to practitioners wanting to establish responsible metrics principles and practices at their institution.

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