At this point the whole metrics fiasco is so toxic that (almost) everyone involved wants to just drop it. Yet it is a well-known fact that Johnson Hall never makes a mistake. What a dilemma!
At his recent metrics town hall, after hearing the litany of objections from faculty and heads, Provost Banavar offered the ingenious solution of saying that any proposal departments submit, even purely verbal descriptions of faculty research productivity that refuse to categorize journals and presses by quality, will count as “metrics”.
Meanwhile here’s the news from Italy – thanks to UO Psych department prof Sanjay Srivastava for the tip.
Marco Seeber, Mattia Cattaneo, Michele Meoli, Paolo Malighetti
There is limited knowledge on the extent to which scientists may strategically respond to metrics by adopting questionable practices, namely practices that challenge the scientific ethos, and the individual and contextual factors that affect their likelihood. This article aims to fill these gaps by studying the opportunistic use of self-citations, i.e. citations of one’s own work to boost metric scores. Based on sociological and economic literature exploring the factors driving scientists’ behaviour, we develop hypotheses on the predictors of strategic increase in self-citations. We test the hypotheses in the Italian Higher Education system, where promotion to professorial positions is regulated by a national habilitation procedure that considers the number of publications and citations received. The sample includes 886 scientists from four of science’s main disciplinary sectors, employs different metrics approaches, and covers an observation period beginning in 2002 and ending in 2014. We find that the introduction of a regulation that links the possibility of career advancement to the number of citations received is related to a strong and significant increase in self-citations among scientists who can benefit the most from increasing citations, namely assistant professors, associate professors and relatively less cited scientists, and in particular among social scientists. Our findings suggest that while metrics are introduced to spur virtuous behaviours, when not properly designed they favour the usage of questionable practices.