Well-written (and concise!) thoughts about impact and value from John Brewer.
Well worth reading!
4. Viewpoint – Brewer 9-12 (proofed).pdf (application/pdf Object).
Here is a serious point of divergence between UK and US bureaucratic structures:
The RAE, however, was more than a reputational measure. As a mechanism for allocating resources, the RAE’s procedures and practices were open to constant refinement because so much counted on the outcome.
An emphasis on self-critical reflexivity is sorely needed in the US educational-industrial complex, primarily concerning the ways in which we measure or track the effectiveness of educational endeavors. There are no opportunities to critique the regime of standardized testing, student evaluations, or metrics regarding the ‘quality’ or ‘impact’ of academic scholarship, save for activism around reform movements – and academics themselves are notoriously allergic to activism, of any kind.
Despite that so much rides on the outcomes of test scores, metrics, and rankings, there seems to be little bureaucratic pressure on companies in charge of designing, administering, calculating, interpreting, and disseminating these results to respond to valid criticisms from the education community – teachers, administrators, students, and parents alike. These measurement structures are simply passed down from on high to shape the minds of future generations without a measured thought as to how might be the best way to do this, and in what ways the minds of future generations ought to be shaped.
But I hestitate at his conclusion that “public value rather than public impact is the proper terrain” on which university disciplines ought to be defended. NSF formerly imposed specific ‘national goals’ as part of its Broader Impacts merit review criterion, but those goals were then quickly revised out of it, due in part to community pushback for similar reasons that Brewer notes. But the notion of ‘value’ has been thoroughly appropriated by the economic in such a way that it would be difficult to discuss public value without running into the same initial problems that academics faced with the impact debate – reductively quantifying academic output.
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