These metrics don't measure up 1

June 23, 2006

The Department for Education and Skills consultation paper on replacing the research assessment exercise with income-based metrics asks:

"What are the possible undesirable behavioural consequences of the different models and how might the effects be mitigated?" ("Metrics deliver a costly blow to the elite", June 23).

In response to the first part of the question, it doesn't need much knowledge of game theory to suggest that because quality-related money will be allocated according to how much money a university earns in grants and contracts from research councils, charities and so on, then university staff will be under pressure to make more applications for such money. And since volume is crucial, they will be pressed to ask for ever larger sums.

As the money available is finite, this will result in fewer but larger grants being allocated so that more academics will find it difficult to fund their research. Morale will decline and the country's scientific base will be eroded.

As for the question's second part - abolish this stupid idea. To quote one leading source, it is "utter bollocks" (and the consultation paper has got its history wrong).

Ron Johnston

School of Geographical Sciences

Bristol University

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