Wellcome has a charitable view of metrics

October 13, 2006

The Wellcome Trust, the UK's biggest research charity, this week came out in favour of a wholly quantitative metrics-based research assessment system to replace the current exercise.

Mark Walport, Wellcome's director, said a metrics system would suit the biomedical sciences, with which it is heavily involved. He said that the peer review involved in vetting research grants would be enough to ensure the quality of research.

"The most peer-reviewed activities are grants from charities and research councils. It's also competitive and international. For the biomedical sciences, grant income is a relevant metric," he said.

But others disagree. Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "The published output of research is extremely important. There are very able researchers who produce fabulous output with very little money, and people who produce very little research with extraordinarily large amounts of money. Ignoring the output metric is fraught with danger."

Lee-Ann Coleman, head of research policy at the Association of Medical Research Charities, said: "All our members are committed to peer review. Inputs do not necessarily mean outputs."

Learned societies are also determined to keep peer review.

Maths societies said metrics alone would not produce reliable judgments.

They called for a more frequent exercise to avoid "disruptive" gaps between assessments.

The British Academy said research assessment needed to be slimmed down but a hasty move to metrics would be "ill-advised". A wholly metrics-based approach, especially one based on external grant income, could discourage long-term research in the humanities and social sciences.

Malcolm Cook, chair of the Modern Humanities Research Association, said:

"The humanities need something a lot more nuanced."

The Academy of Social Sciences called for "a carefully selected combination of quantitative and qualitative methods". It said the difficulty lay in identifying quantitative measures that reflected quality.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns