Lots of colleagues are celebrating the end of ERA journal rankings, announced via press release by Minister Kim Carr yesterday. I suppose some who have been ridden hard by research managers (some of whom were myopically focussed on A* and A journals) particularly savoured this bit:
There is clear and consistent evidence that the rankings were being deployed inappropriately within some quarters of the sector, in ways that could produce harmful outcomes, and based on a poor understanding of the actual role of the rankings.
One common example was the setting of targets for publication in A and A* journals by institutional research managers.
In light of these two factors – that ERA could work perfectly well without the rankings, and that their existence was focussing ill-informed undesirable behaviour in the management of research – I have made the decision to remove the rankings, based on the ARC’s expert advice.
I personally never experienced any such “undesirable behaviour”. Perhaps I was just lucky. At any rate, having seen the RAE up close in the UK, I figured that doing my job pretty well as normal was the key. As long as an individual researcher is productive relative to their opportunities, I surmised, they should be fine. My managers always seemed fine with that, too. But I don’t doubt that the behaviour Carr points to occurred.
With all that said, I’m actually ambivalent about the end of the rankings. I want to know more detail about what’s replacing it, for a start.
Further, I find today’s post by Joshua Gans pretty compelling. You should go and read the whole thing, but this resonated with me:
But we should be more angry about this. Many academics’ comments on hearing about the demise of the ERA is good riddance. Why? Because they bore the costs of fighting about the measure and then the gaming. But those costs have been borne. I personally bore a ton of them and so did so many others. A complete waste of time.
And for what? Nothing. Just to prove to the Government what we all could have predicted four years ago!
Another squibbed reform from Labor? Gans seems to think so.
One thing’s for sure. There will be a lot of scholars with papers stuck in three year queues at what were once A* journals who might have cause for ambivalence, too.