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Measuring the Impact of Research in Diverse Disciplines

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Content originally published on data180.com. Learn more about Interfolio’s acquisition of Data180 here.

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In a world where every dollar spent on academic research must be justified to numerous institutional and political authorities, it is becoming necessary to develop a set of metrics that accurately gauges the impact that research has on society, according to a blog post published in August in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The post, entitled “Measuring Value: Societal Benefits of Research,” was created by Ellen Hazelkorn, head of the Higher Education Policy Research Unit at the Dublin Institute of Technology and policy adviser to Ireland’sBLOG mesa Higher Education Authority.

Academic administrators are often under political pressure to show the impact of their faculty members’ research, and this has lead to a reliance on criteria such as research income, bibliometrics and citations — all of which favor the physical, life and medical sciences, Hazelkorn says. This in turn leads to more funding and resources being directed to these disciplines, while research in other areas is underappreciated and underfunded because it cannot be accurately evaluated along the same criteria.

Hazelkorn says that new systems of measuring the impact of research are emerging to confront this challenge.

“In response to growing public concern about value for money, and academic criticism of bibliometrics and rankings, a broader framework for research assessment is emerging,” she writes. “This includes identifying indicators which more fairly value all disciplines, and acknowledge that research is a continuum.”

Hazelkorn cites a number of international efforts that are moving in that direction, such as a 2010 E.U. report suggesting that numerous research outputs from fields in social science and liberal arts can be influential in policy-making and social improvements. She also gives examples of groups in Australia and the United Kingdom that are working on creating new metrics for research that reflect a project’s societal impact.

Hazelkorn says that these new practices, while still in development, will ultimately help leaders in academia and government understand the value of research in diverse disciplines.

“Although these approaches — including their implications for scientific‐scholarly practice — need to be evaluated over time, they are progressive and could eventually overcome many of the biases and limitations inherent in current bibliometric-based practices,” she writes. “As with any other change process, it is better to be in the tent helping to shape it, than outside looking it.”

The full post from the Chronicle of Higher Education is available here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/worldwise/measuring-value-societal-benefits-of-research/30179

Content originally published on data180.com. Learn more about Interfolio’s acquisition of Data180 here.