Contextualizing metrics

Posted on behalf of Elliot Berkman (Psychology)

A common theme that comes up in conversations about metrics is that they cannot be interpreted in isolation. For example, departments where faculty have unusually large service or teaching loads cannot be expected to maintain the same level of research productivity as departments where faculty have smaller loads.

I want to put in a plug for “contextualizing metrics” or other information about factors that influence scholarship productivity to be included alongside the departmental mission metrics.

Several candidates for contextualizing metrics have come up in various conversations. For example, it might be very helpful for consumers of your metrics to know about:

  • Total number of active faculty
  • Average effective teaching load (where “effective” means # courses actually taught per year per 1.0 TTF after accounting for course releases, etc.)
  • Level of university service (number of assignments per TTF? Or just a list of the major committees?)
  • Level of field-level service (e.g., major editorships)
  • Average # of graduate students supervised
  • Departmental budget per TTF
  • Etc

I emphasize that the point of these contextualizing metrics is not to provide a full accounting of your other activities (teaching, service, mentorship) — the Provost hopes to measure those, too, but not quite yet — but rather to give a more complete picture of how faculty in your department spend their time so the scholarship metrics can be interpreted with more nuance.


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