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July 28, 2006

A simple analogy shows why the use of metrics is a madder idea than the philosophically and methodologically fraudulent research assessment exercise, which disfigures and corrupts higher education in the UK much to the amusement of the rest of the world.

Go back 80 million years to the age of dinosaurs. Use the metrics of ecological science to evaluate the vertebrate terrestrial fauna. Now, jump forward 40 million years a brief passage of geological time. Where have all the reptiles gone? What ecological metrics predicted the rise of mammals?

To the chagrin of bureaucratic bean-counters, progress in research is as unpredictable as evolutionary change. The route to a successful environment is to encourage a diver-sity of approaches, the converse of the attempts to be selective. The latter approach is certain to produce a degenerating research environment.

R. J. Wootton
Llanbadarn Fawr

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