ESRC will contribute research on initiative

July 21, 2006

The Economic and Social Research Council is working behind the scenes to develop metrics to suit the social sciences, its chief executive insisted this week, writes Anthea Lipsett.

The social science community has voiced concern that social sciences are missing from the Government's Next Steps document, which proposed the use of metrics to judge research, Ian Diamond told The Times Higher .

"The ESRC was already doing a lot of work in this area," he said. "The council has set up a small group of council members, which is analysing what metrics might look like in the social sciences."

The group plans to consult on its findings and is talking to the Association of Learned Societies in the Social Sciences and the British Academy.

"There are very particular issues in the social sciences that don't make it impossible to take a metric approach but do mean a social sciences-specific approach," Professor Diamond said.

"Large amounts of social science work are of direct policy relevance and we need ways of encouraging that to happen and ways of measuring the quality.

"Equally, lots of social sciences - education and management for example - have important implications for professional practice. We need the very best social scientists doing this work, and we need ways of measuring its quality and impact."

He said that the bibliometric approach, applied to many other disciplines, was not particularly suited to social sciences, where research tends to be published as a monograph.

He said he hoped to finish the work by autumn and feed some of the findings into the Government's metrics consultation.

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