Beethoven vs. Bieber: On the meaningfulness of (alt)metrics
Prof. Blaise Cronin: Indiana University
The REF and RAE symbolize powerfully the ongoing transformation of the higher education system, in the UK and elsewhere. Formalized research assessment exercises are creating a pervasive culture of accountability, metrification and monetization. Increasingly, research inputs are justified on the basis of measurable outputs (datasets, patents, papers), which, in turn, are expected to generate quantifiable impacts (downloads, inventions, citations). In addition to traditional measures of productivity and its downstream effects, we also have social media tools and platforms providing dynamically updated indicators of socio-scholarly usage and impact (e.g., Mendelay readership statistics, ‘likes’ on Twitter, news media mentions, blog commentary). Academic careers and reputations run the risk of being reduced to a miscellany of indicators, not a few of which are of questionable validity and reliability.