Professors from prestigious universities across the United States are increasingly voicing protest against their employers using the services of Academic Analytics, a company that monitors the performance of individual faculty members and universities overall.
A statement from the General Faculty and Faculty Council at the University of Texas at Austin last week urged that the university should not use data from Academic Analytics in allocating resources among faculties, in tenure or promotion of academics, or in decisions concerning student curricula.
It read that: “the methods and variables employed by Academic Analytics, LLC inadequately capture the extraordinary breadth, methodologies, and quality of scholarly inquiry on a university campus with a large number of colleges and departments.”
Academic Analytics was founded in 2005 and now has a database of more than 270,000 faculty members at 385 universities in the US and elsewhere.
Academics and their institutions are ranked by the company according to elements of “scholarly research accomplishment” including numbers of scholarly publications, citations, research funding, as well as honours and awards bestowed upon staff.
The statement from UT Austin professors joins growing concerns across the US, who say the data collected by Academic Analytics is too blunt to be shaping important university decisions regarding faculty funding, employment and curriculum.
“The parameters used by Academic Analytics, LLC to define ‘scholarly productivity’ are likely to skew, redirect, narrow, and otherwise have an outsized influence on the type and quality of scholarship produced by UT Austin faculty,” it said.
“The data generated by Academic Analytics, LLC—however misleading and inaccurate— are likely to be used by administrators to pit faculty and departments against one another for limited resources, including salary increases.”
Moreover, universities pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the company’s services.
An economics professor at the University of Oregon Bill Harbaugh has argued that the way data is measured by Academic Analytics “encourages the wrong kind of science. It encourages faculty to publish quickly, publishing in a way not to have greatest intellectual impact but to get the best numbers.”
“Faculty will purposely split something into two papers that would normally have been one, just to get more numbers of publications,” he said as quoted by Eugene Weekly.
“Throughout my college career, my best professors have been those with ‘low research productivity,’” tweeted Christopher Jones, a grad student, regarding the controversy.
— The Daily Targum (@daily_targum) May 2, 2016
Back in 2015, faculty members from Rutgers wrote that Academics Analytics was “intruding upon academic freedom, peer evaluation and shared governance … while utterly ignoring the teaching, service, and civic engagement that faculty perform.”