Index will limit diversity

December 4, 2008

Michael Worton wonders why the European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH) is so controversial given its "admirable aim" - namely to improve the "visibility" of European publishing activity and recognise the "full diversity" of European humanities research ("Excellence in diversity", November).

If this was indeed the purpose of the ERIH, it was an important opportunity that has been squandered. What has been created instead is a crude tool for pigeon-holing humanities research so that it lends itself readily to the processes of metrics.

Warton highlights the "impact" the ERIH is already having on the way research is disseminated and accessed, and trustingly assumes that institutions will respect the instructions of the ERIH project leaders not to use the tool in areas such as appointments, promotions and research grants. He disingenuously ignores the impact the ERIH will have on publishing behaviour and the inevitably negative consequences for the diversity of publishing outlets.

Universities and funding bodies should foster the vitality of the humanities by means of a policy that rejects ERIH categorisation as a measure of research quality. Highly ranked journals should support the current diversity of publishing opportunities by having their names removed from the ERIH.

Katrin Kohl, University of Oxford.

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