The assessment of academics

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In higher education academics are assessed, for example as part of the promotion process. Two academics from different disciplines (eg education and physics) might be applying for internal promotion (in a context where there are a limited number of people who can be promoted that year). The promotion panel would make decisions about which of these two people to promote based on evidence about their performance - which would often take the form of a CV plus some references (and possibly a couple of sides of A4 on which the case was made for why this particular person deserved promotion).

This process relies almost entirely on peer review - the status of an academic depends upon:

  • the number and quality of her publications (high status publications are ones that have been peer reviewed - and the better the journal the higher the calibre of the reviewers)
  • the amount of money (particularly research grants) that s/he has gained (grant applications are normally reviewed by other academics or at the very least there is a competative process in which 'the best' grants are funded)
  • the quality of her teaching (which will often be based on student or colleague testamonials/evaluations)
  • a measure of standing within the community - whether they have national or international status (which is judged in terms of the extent to which other academics know about and value their work - as indicated, for example, by the number of keynote speaches they have been asked to do, or which journals they are on the editorial panel for, or whether they have been asked to be an external examiner at other universities)

The entire process relies upon the judgements (assessments) of peers, who are trusted to be able to evaluate the quality of a colleague working in the same field.

This process is then used to enable comparisons to be made between academics in very different fields (who one might think of as having followed very different curricula).

Wikied wanted to see if a similar approach could be used in other contexts (eg with young people).