Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, The Quantified Scholar: How Research Evaluations Transformed the British Social Sciences – Columbia University Press, August 2022; reviewed at London Review of Books by John Whitfield – doesn’t seem to require subscription to read.
The books looks important, but the review is a good brief (3000 words) overview of the UK higher education review process – perhaps especially useful for those outside it to understand something of what has happened.
Since 1986, the British government, faced with dwindling budgets and growing calls for public accountability, has sought to assess the value of scholarly work in the nation’s universities. Administrators have periodically evaluated the research of most full-time academics employed in British universities, seeking to distribute increasingly scarce funding to those who use it best. How do such attempts to quantify the worth of knowledge change the nature of scholarship?
Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra examines the effects of quantitative research evaluations on British social scientists, arguing that the mission to measure academic excellence resulted in less diversity and more disciplinary conformity. Combining interviews and original computational analyses, The Quantified Scholar provides a compelling account of how scores, metrics, and standardized research evaluations altered the incentives of scientists and administrators by rewarding forms of scholarship that were closer to established disciplinary canons. In doing so, research evaluations amplified publication hierarchies and long-standing forms of academic prestige to the detriment of diversity. Slowly but surely, they reshaped academic departments, the interests of scholars, the organization of disciplines, and the employment conditions of researchers.
Critiquing the effects of quantification on the workplace, this book also presents alternatives to existing forms of evaluation, calling for new forms of vocational solidarity that can challenge entrenched inequality in academia.