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‘In metrics we trust? Impact, indicators & the prospects for social science over the next five years' | Prof James Wilsdon, University of Sussex and David Walker, Academy of Social Sciences | 6 May, Saïd Business School (17.00-18.30)

ABSTRACT

Citations, journal impact factors, H-indices, even tweets and Facebook likes – there are no end of quantitative measures that can now be used to assess the quality and wider impacts of research. But how robust and reliable are such indicators, and what weight – if any – should we give them in the management of the UK's research system? Over the past year, the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management has looked in detail at these questions. The review has explored the use of metrics across the full range of academic disciplines, and assessed their potential contribution to processes of research assessment like the REF. It has looked at how universities themselves use metrics, at the rise of league tables and rankings, at the relationship between metrics and issues of equality and diversity, and at the potential for 'gaming' that can arise from the use of particular indicators in the funding system. The review's final report, The Metric Tide, will be published on 9 July. In advance of this, James Wilsdon will use this talk to preview its findings, with a particular focus on opportunities & dilemmas for the social sciences & humanities. The second part of his talk will look at the broader post-election prospects for social science funding & influence within government, building on the Campaign for Social Science's recent report 'The Business of People'.

Biography

James Wilsdon is a professor of science and democracy at the University of Sussex. He is also a director of The Nexus Network, an ESRC-funded initiative to link research, policy & practice across food, energy, water and the environment.

In 2013, Prof Wilsdon became chair of the Campaign for Social Science, which works to make the case for UK social science with policymakers, the media and the wider public. He led the working group for the Campaign's pre-election report The Business of People, published in February 2015, and in 2014 he was asked by HEFCE to chair an independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment, which will publish its final report in July 2015.

Prof Wilsdon is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. His other affiliations are with the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Science and Policy, University of Colorado’s Centre for Science and Technology Policy, Science and Democracy Network, and CISTRAT (International Research and Training Centre for Science and Technology Strategy in Beijing. His past experience includes being the founding director of the Science Policy Centre at the Royal Society, head of strategy at the public policy think tank Demos, and a senior policy advisor at the sustainability NGO Forum for the Future.

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