Virtues hidden in flawed project

January 29, 2009

While Michael Worton and the European Science Foundation (ESF) talk until they are "blue in the face" to convince us of the virtues of the European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH), they are clearly not listening to those they purport to represent ("Index of journals scraps controversial grades", 22 January).

The ESF's decision to withdraw letter grade rankings of humanities journals in the ERIH is welcome, but it does not affect the substantive issue. The effect of the project is to evaluate journals, and thus authors. The ESF has now admitted that its journal listings are in fact being used evaluatively. In response to protests, it concedes that there are methodological and operational errors in its listings. Given the gross inadequacies now exposed in the ERIH, it would be idiocy to extend the scheme to monographs, edited volumes and conference proceedings, which is the ESF's next aim.

Without the confidence of the academic community, the ERIH is meaningless. Having slavishly defended the ERIH, the Arts and Humanities Research Council must now reconsider its embarrassing participation in this fundamentally flawed project.

Jeff Hughes

President, British Society for the History of Science

University of Manchester.

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