The HuMetricsHSS Initiative wrapped up its first planning grant and began a new phase of work in July 2019, supported by a second generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Here's what we've been up to since.
In our planning grant phase (July 2017 – December 2018), we brought scholars from different institutions together to build frameworks and work through the values-based process. In our current grant cycle (July 2019 – December 2020), our workshops have been specifically tailored to help faculty and staff make change locally. In January 2020 we ran a workshop at Duke, and in February we visited the University of Iowa. In both places we walked participants at different career levels through a similar process to the one we developed for our very first workshop, The Value of Values, but geared more in this case toward developing actionable indicators: How do you talk about your values with your promotion and tenure review board? How do you, as a member of that board, infuse values into your process of evaluation? How can we facilitate those conversations on both sides?
We had more in-person workshops planned, but the onset of COVID-19 has delayed that aspect of our work. Instead, we've turned our attention to making our workshop process available to be run by interested parties at their home institutions. For more on that, see our in-progress Workshop Guide.
We are also conducting research interviews with each of the Big Ten Academic Alliance universities, speaking to administrators, faculty, and staff involved in tenure and promotion decisions and other evaluation processes about the current use and limitations of metrics, the reasons they use (or don't use) those metrics, and the contexts within which they do their decision-making. This research will eventually result in an aggregated report on how systems of evaluations are being used and attitudes toward them from key actors in the evaluation process.
No one is happy with current metrics, but everyone believes agency for change lies elsewhere.
One thing that has become clear as we have these conversations is that few people are happy with current metrics, but everyone believes agency for change lies elsewhere: departments believe they’re adhering to college- or campus-wide requirements, whereas deans and provosts say they are responding to criteria set at the departmental level. Part of the importance of our work thus lies in illuminating the levers for change that all of us as members of the academy, defined broadly, can in fact access.
Speaking of providing tools for change, we also have several digital projects in the works. The first is a self-reflection tool that allows you to walk yourself through the creation of a scholarly object in light of values you have chosen and suggests how you might make different small decisions within that process to better uphold and document your values. This tool will be housed here on our website and be freely available; it is currently in development.
Based on a workshop we ran in the first phase of our work, we're also speaking to potential collaborators about how to best capture the syllabus as both a scholarly object and an indicator of values held by the faculty member who creates it. For more on what that might look like, see our blog post about that syllabus workshop and this short write-up on how we're considering syllabi in our work.