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HEFCE Metrics Workshop

Metrics and the assessment of research quality and impact in the Arts and Humanities

A one-day workshop that was hosted by the University of Warwick on 16th January 2015, as part of the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment.

The quality and diverse impacts of research are commonly assessed using a combination of peer review and a variety of quantitative metrics. Peer review is the most established method of research assessment and underpins the academic system in the UK and internationally. The use of metrics is a newer approach but has developed rapidly as a potential method of measuring research quality and impact in some fields, though how best to do this is still the subject of considerable debate.

In April 2014, the Minister for Universities and Science asked HEFCE to undertake a review of the role of metrics in research assessment and management chaired by James Wilsdon, Professor of Science and Democracy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex. The independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment considers how well metrics can be used across different academic disciplines to assess the excellence of research undertaken in the higher education sector.

As a contribution to the ongoing work of the review project, a number of stakeholder engagement events were held. Through these, we explored issues which are key to the metrics debate, including the distinctive questions that emerged from the prospect of the use of metrics to assess the quality and impact of arts and humanities research.

The workshop addressed the following objectives:

1. Offering a clear overview of the progress to date in the development of metrics of relevance to arts and humanities to date and persisting challenges.
2. Exploring the potential benefits and drawbacks of metrics use in research assessment and management from the perspective of disciplines within the arts and humanities.
3. Generating evidence, insights and concrete recommendations that can inform the final report of the independent metrics review.

The workshop was attended by several members of the metrics review steering group, academics and stakeholders drawn from across the wider HE and research community, including speakers from King's College London and Brunel University.