Performance anxiety in academia: Tensions within research assessment exercises in an age of austerity
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Holland, Charlotte, Lorenzi, Francesca, & Hall, Tony. (2016). Performance anxiety in academia: Tensions within research assessment exercises in an age of austerity. Policy Futures in Education, 14(8), 1101-1116. doi: 10.1177/1478210316664263
The current recessionary economic climate in Ireland has (re-)awakened a neoliberal agenda that is changing the dynamic of what is being valued within research assessment exercises, specifically across Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) disciplines in higher education. Research assessment exercises in AHSS disciplines now place a greater emphasis on measuring performance in terms of quantitative research metrics (such as: bibliometrics, impact factors and/or citation indices), in an attempt to demonstrate greater accountability and value-for-money within this age of austerity. This practice has the potential to impact negatively on the quality and diversity of research, as well as on the independence and autonomy of those undertaking AHSS research in Ireland and elsewhere. This article critically reviews research assessment exercises, with particular reference to the assessment of educational research in Ireland. It examines issues in the assessment of research within the neoliberal agenda that is evident in Ireland, and elsewhere. For example, in other jurisdictions, the neoliberal drive for accountability has been accompanied by an increase in 'citation clubs', a malpractice involving a group of researchers consistently citing each other's work to increase their citation index. It also challenges the validity of utilising predominantly quantitative research metrics in light of the recent move towards the online publication of research, where the manipulation of meta-data (key words that describe the research) has the potential to unfairly increase the citation indices of those researchers with a better understanding of search optimisation techniques within online contexts. The discussion concludes by summarising some of the emerging and emergent anxieties in relation to assessing research performance within assessment exercises.