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Executive summary

This report presents the findings and recommendations of the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management. The review was chaired by Professor James Wilsdon, supported by an independent and multidisciplinary group of experts in scientometrics, research funding, research policy, publishing, university management and administration.

Scope of the review

This review has gone beyond earlier studies to take a deeper look at potential uses and limitations of research metrics and indicators. It has explored the use of metrics across different disciplines, and assessed their potential contribution to the development of research excellence and impact. It has analysed their role in processes of research assessment, including the next cycle of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). It has considered the changing ways in which universities are using quantitative indicators in their management systems, and the growing power of league tables and rankings. And it has considered the negative or unintended effects of metrics on various aspects of research culture.

Our report starts by tracing the history of metrics in research management and assessment, in the UK and internationally. It looks at the applicability of metrics within different research cultures, compares the peer review system with metric-based alternatives, and considers what balance might be struck between the two. It charts the development of research management systems within institutions, and examines the effects of the growing use of quantitative indicators on different aspects of research culture, including performance management, equality, diversity, interdisciplinarity, and the ‘gaming’ of assessment systems. The review looks at how different funders are using quantitative indicators, and considers their potential role in research and innovation policy. Finally, it examines the role that metrics played in REF2014, and outlines scenarios for their contribution to future exercises.

The review has drawn on a diverse evidence base to develop its findings and conclusions. These include: a formal call for evidence; a comprehensive review of the literature (Supplementary Report I); and extensive consultation with stakeholders at focus groups, workshops, and via traditional and new media.

The review has also drawn on HEFCE’s recent evaluations of REF2014, and commissioned its own detailed analysis of the correlation between REF2014 scores and a basket of metrics (Supplementary Report II).

See below: Related content for Supplementary Reports I and II.

Publication Details