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Aug. 20, 2019

Mellon grant supports values-based metrics initiative to transform higher education

Michigan State University has received a $695,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund the Humane Metrics for the Humanities and Social Sciences, or HuMetricsHSS, initiative. HuMetricsHSS is an international partnership that supports the development and implementation of new methods for assessing the nature and quality of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences over the next 18 months.

The HuMetricsHSS initiative aims to create and support a values-based framework that enables humanities and social sciences scholars to tell more textured and compelling stories about the impact of their research and the variety of ways it enriches public life.

It is led by an international group of scholars, including Christopher P. Long, dean of the College of Arts and Letters.

At the heart of this work is the recognition that the culture of higher education is shaped by practices of scholarly communication. In an era in which metrics increasingly shape how scholarship is undertaken and evaluated, HuMetricsHSS takes an innovative approach that begins by identifying values that enrich practices of scholarship in order to expand the breadth of what counts as a “scholarly contribution."

By creating a more humane metrics framework, the initiative seeks to diminish the broad reliance on metrics that either presupposes value as reflected in neutral indicators (such as citations) or that fails to consider the question of value at all in a scholar’s work. Instead, HuMetricsHSS advances a practiced-based approach that is holistic, reflective and transparent.

“By orienting scholars and institutions toward the values about which they care most deeply and by providing them with structured ways to intentionally embody those values in the practices by which knowledge is created, shared and evaluated, we hope to help individuals, departments, colleges and academic institutions reshape the culture of higher education so that it is more humane, supportive and just,” Long said.

Over the next 18 months, the Mellon grant will fund onsite values-focused workshops at a number of institutions in the United States and the European Union, research into the current processes of scholarly evaluation, the creation of a values toolkit and continued development of HuMetricsHSS software.

“The work Dean Long and I are doing to engage our colleagues across the Big 10 Academic Alliance will help the HuMetricsHSS team assess how campuses in the United States and European Union utilize metrics in HSS,” Thornton Dill said. “This work will provide a framework for measuring impact that reflects the values and modes of inquiry in our fields."

By the end of this grant period, the research team anticipates that pilots of the HuMetricsHSS framework will be deployed by several institutions at some level and progress will be made on building a replicable model to advance adoption beyond these pilots.

By: Kimberly Popiolek