Online, Continuous, Metrics-Based
Future UK Research Assessment Exercise
(RAE) to be Metrics-Based
Department of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton
SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM
Chaire de recherche de Canada
Centre de neuroscience de la cognition (CNC)
Institut des sciences cognitives (ISC/CSI)
Université du Québec à Montréal
Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 3P8
As predicted, and long urged,
the UK's wasteful, time-consuming Research
Assessment Exercise (RAE) is to be replaced by metrics:
Government is strongly committed to the dual support system, and to
rewarding research excellence, but recognises some of the burdens
imposed by the existing Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The
Government's firm presumption is that after the 2008 RAE the system for
assessing research quality and allocating 'quality-related' (QR)
funding will be mainly metrics-based... The Government will
launch a consultation on its preferred option for a metrics-based
system for assessing research quality and allocating QR funding,
publishing results in time for the 2006 Pre-Budget Report."
"Over recent years a number of
studies have considered options for a radically different allocation
system for QR in order to avoid or reduce the need for a peer review
process. The focus in most cases has been on identifying one or more
metrics that could be used to assess research quality and allocate
funding, for example research income, citations, publications, research
student numbers etc. The Government has considered the evidence to date
and favours identifying a simpler system that may not precisely
replicate the level of detailed analysis of the RAE but would enable an
appropriate distribution of QR funding at the institutional level."
"[M]etrics collected as part of the
next assessment will be used to undertake an exercise shadowing the
2008 RAE itself, to provide a benchmark on the information value of the
metrics as compared to the outcomes of the full peer review process.
The aim of any changes following this exercise will be to reduce the
administrative burden of peer review, wherever possible, consistent
with the overriding aim of assessing excellence"
RAE outcome is most closely correlated (r = 0.98) with the metric of
prior RCUK research funding (Figure
4.1) (this is no doubt in part a "Matthew
Effect"), but research
citation impact is another metric highly correlated with the RAE
outcome, even though it is not explicitly counted. Now it can be
explicitly counted (along with other powerful new performance metrics)
and all the rest of the ritualistic time-wasting can be abandoned,
without further ceremony.
This represents a great boost for institutional self-archiving in Open
Repositories, not only because that is the obvious, optimal means of submission to the new
metric RAE, but because it is also a powerful means of
maximising research impact, i.e., maximising those metrics: (I hope
Research Councils UK
(RCUK) are listening!).
Harnad, S. (2001) Why I think that research access,
impact and assessment are linked
Higher Education Supplement
1487: p. 16.
Harnad, S. (2003) Why I
believe that all UK research output should be online
Higher Education Supplement
. Friday, June 6 2003.
Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. & Oppenheim, C. (2003) Mandated online RAE
CVs Linked to University Eprint Archives
: Improving the UK Research
Assessment Exercise whilst making it cheaper and easier. Ariadne
and Bean Counters
On Thu, 23 Mar 2006, Adrian Smith
And this new metric RAE policy will help "unskew" it, by instead
placing the weight on the individual author/article citation counts
(and download counts, CiteRanks, authority counts, citation/download
latency, citation/longevity, co-citation signature, and many, many new
OA metrics waiting to be devised and validated, including full-text
semantic-analysis and semantic-web-tag analyses too) rather than only,
or primarily, on the blunter instrument (the journal impact factor).
This is not just about one number any more! The journal tag will still
have some weight, but just one weight among many, in an OA
scientometric multiple regression equation, customised for each
This is an occasion for rejoicing at progress, pluralism and openness,
not digging up obsolescent concerns about over-reliance on the journal
On Thu, 23 Mar 2006, Ian Sommerville
wrote on the CPHC
is the wording from the budget document
'The Government wants this to
continue, but thinks the close correlation between Research Council
income and QR income may provide an opportunity for allocating QR using
a radically simpler system. '
point is made that, at an institutional level, there is a 0.98
correlation between research income and QR. No mention of citation
impact. An alternative metric may be proposed for the humanities."
You are quite right that the default metric many have in mind is
research income, but be patient! Now that the door has been opened to
objective metrics (instead of amateurish in-house peer-re-review), this
will spawn more and more candidates for enriching the metric equation.
If RAE top-slicing wants to continue to be an independent funding
source in the present "dual" funding system (RCUK/RAE), it will want to
have some predictive metrics that are independent of prior funding. (If
RAE instead just wants to redundantly echo research funding, it need
merely scale up RCUK research grants to absorb what would have been the
RAE top-slice and drop the RAE and dual funding altogether!)
The important thing is to scrap the useless, time-wasting RAE
preparation/evaluation ritual we were all faithfully performing, when
the outcome was already so predictable from other, cheaper sources.
Objective metrics are the natural, sensible way to conduct such an
exercise, and once we are doing metrics, many powerful new predictive
measures will emerge, over and above grant income and citations. The
RAE ranking will not come from one variable, but from a multiple
regression equation, with many weighted predictor metrics in an Open
Access world, in which research full-texts in their own authors' Institutional
Repositories are citation-linked,
and otherwise scientometrically assessed and analysed continuously.
Hitchcock, S., Brody, T., Gutteridge,
C., Carr, L., Hall, W., Harnad, S., Bergmark, D. and Lagoze, C. (2002) Open Citation Linking: The
. D-Lib Magazine
Brody, T., Harnad, S. and Carr, L. (2005) Earlier Web Usage
Statistics as Predictors of Later Citation Impact
. Journal of the
American Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).