Analytics for Understanding Research

After a bit of exploration of the history, meanings and definitions of analytics from Adam Cooper, today our Analytics Series continues with the Analytics for Understanding Research paper (by Mark Van Harmelen).

Research and research management are key concerns for Higher Education, and indeed the wider economy. The sector needs to to ensure it is developing, managing, and sharing research capacity, capabilities, reputation and impact as effectively and efficiently as possible.

The use of analytics platforms has the potential to impact all aspects of research practice from the individual researcher in sharing and measuring their performance, to institutional management and planning of research projects, to funders in terms of decision making about funding areas.

The β€œAnalytics for Understanding Research” paper focuses on analytics as applied to β€œthe process of research, to research results and to the measurement of research.” The paper highlights exemplar systems, metrics and analytic techniques backed by evidence in academic research, the challenges in using them and future directions for research. It points to the need for the support and development of high quality, timely data for researchers to experiment with in terms of measuring and sharing their reputation and impact, and the wider adoption of platforms which utilise publicly available (and funded) data to inform and justify research investment.

Some key risks involved in the use of analytics to understand research highlighted in the paper are:

*Use of bibliometric indicators as the sole measure of research impact or over-reliance on metrics without any understanding of the context and nature of the research.
*Lack of understanding of analytics and advantages and disadvantages of different indicators on the part of users of those indicators. Managers and decision makers may lack the background needed to interpret existing analytics sensitively.
*The suitability of target-based assessment based on analytics is unproven. A wider assessment approach was tentatively recommended above (in most detail on page 29).
*There is a danger of one or a few vendors supplying systems that impose a particular view of analytics on research management data.

However it also points to some key opportunities including:

*Access to high-quality timely analytics may enable professionals to gauge their short-term performance, and use experimentation to discover new and novel ways to boost their impact.
*Adoption of CERIF-based CRIS across UK HE institutions and research institutes, with automatic retrieval of public data by UK Research Councils may help motivate increases in public funding of scientific and other scholarly activity; vitally important to the UK economy and national economic growth.
*Training as to the advantages, limitations and applicability of analytics may assist in the effective use of analytics its lay users, including researchers, research managers, and those responsible for policy and direction in institutions and beyond.

As ever, if you have any thoughts or experiences you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

The paper is available to download here .

The papers published to date in the series are all available here.

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