How to measure the quality of research: who is DORA and why does it matter for PGRs?

In this post, Judith Hegenbarth, Head of Research Skills in Library Services, introduces the responsible use of research metrics and UoB’s Commitment to Responsible Research Assessment.

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Any government minister will tell you that performing research costs money, and that public spending on it has to be justified.  The allocation of research funding is based on a perception of ‘quality’, and part of the equation is whether an individual, research group or institution has performed ‘quality’ research in the past.

Metrics

Measuring quality is a contentious issue, particularly when it concerns the ‘performance’ of an individual researcher or scholar.  In the past, the number of times a publication has been cited by other researchers has been used as a proxy for influence and thereby quality.  The h-index became a shorthand for author excellence.  This kind of metric has been shown to privilege certain fast publishing disciplines which produce multi-authored papers.  For those researchers who take career breaks to raise families, or lone scholars who publish larger works less frequently, a single measure isn’t helpful or fair.  There’s more discussion of this on our Influential Researcher intranet page (including Canvas course)

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Shut up and focus on mutual encouragement

In this post, Mustafa Coban, a PGR from the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies in the College of Arts and Law shares his experiences of Shut up and work.

Shut up and work was for me initially, Shut up and write, though I’ve come to appreciate the ‘work’ phrasing is much more apt since there is all sorts of work involved in study and research before, during and after the writing process. It was, and still largely is, a time dedicated to writing, editing, and proofreading. A friend who was leaving the university after completing her studies told me about Shut up and work as I was starting my PhD programme. It took me some time to seek out a session, but once I found one, I found it immediately useful.

University of Birmingham University Graduate School. Shut up & work co-working sessions for PGRs. Weekly Thursdays 1pm-4.30pm; Monthly Mondays 10am-5.10pm. Tackle your to-do list and get more done!

I wasn’t entirely sure of what I expected. But I knew I wanted a time dedicated to writing and only writing. I imagined it as time free not only from reading, but the endless loops and interesting dives into reading, that only seemed to snowball as I chased one footnote, idea, or curiosity after another until I had a folder of pdf articles becoming too big to manage. That was in the early days of my programme, and while I still chase footnotes, through “shutting up and writing” I’ve become better at not trying to cover everything I’ve read.

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