Book Review: Muller, Jerry Z. (2018). The Tyranny of Metrics

Rolf A.E. Mueller


After extensive discussions at several lengthy meetings, and deep deliberations by its elected part‐time officials, the faculty eventually introduced a new mechanism for distributing to departments and professors its rather meager research funds: To each according to his or her publishing performance! The
essential element of the mechanism was a point system for publications of various types ‐ many points for articles in high‐impact journals (don't ask!), and few points for contributions in trade journals. It didn't take long for a faculty member to expose a weakness of the new rules. He published one and the same a paper in a network of syndicated farm journals and, by that rule, collected points for each appearance of that paper. He thereby collected more points ‐ and research funds ‐ than he would have received had he published a paper in the most highly ranked research journal in his field. Eyebrows had been raised at the time. With this episode in my memory, I was intrigued by Muller's book "The tyranny of metrics" of which the publisher claims, "In this timely and powerful book, Jerry Muller uncovers the damage our obsession with metrics is causing—and shows how we can begin to fix the problem." Let’s see how much truth is in this advertising.

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ISSN 1869-6945


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