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REF-by-numbers still doesn’t add up


Latest data comparing peer judgments with citations reinforces caveats around metrics, says Jonathan Adams

Discussions of research assessment in the UK often centre on the relationship between peer judgments and citation counts—particularly whether metrics can offer a quicker, cheaper form of assessment than the panels used by successive national evaluations.

So far, the answer has been ‘No’. Analysing the 1996 and 2001 Research Assessment Exercises, my colleagues and I found the natural sciences showed a generally positive relationship between the grade an assessment panel awarded and the average citation count within that subject area. The trend was weaker in engineering and the social sciences, however, and useless in the humanities.

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