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Measuring academic research a lottery: Professor

Measuring academic research a lottery, says AUT professor

A one-eyed approach to measuring the quality of research is producing skewed results, says AUT Associate Dean of Research (Business), Professor Thomas Lange.

In his inaugural professorial address at AUT on Tuesday, August 16, Professor Lange will argue that by focusing on league tables, rankings and citation results, academics are limiting outcomes from the start.

He will challenge the ability of New Zealand’s Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) and similar attempts in other countries to transparently and consistently measure the quality of academic research.

The current emphasis on discipline-specific references and “expert rankings” is hindering rather than helping research, he says.

“The fundamental questions that need to be asked are: who do we benefit through our research? Who is the end user and does it matter if we cross some disciplinary boundaries?”

Despite claims to the contrary, disciplinary pluralism in research opens up a fascinating world of inquiry, says Professor Lange.

“Drawing on the strengths and insights of diverse academic disciplines, such as economics, law, management, social and public policy, serves to strengthen research findings.”

Professor Lange says the government-enforced research assessment exercises have limited rates of return.

“I am wholly unconvinced that government-enforced research assessments accurately assess the true outcomes and values of multidisciplinary applications. Indeed, even within the same discipline, ranking outcomes are highly debatable,” he says.

German born and educated, Professor Thomas Lange is an internationally respected scholar and policy analyst. He has served as a government advisor in a number of European countries.

A former specialist advisor to Scotland’s Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, he has been an influential commentator on issues including Scotland’s student loan scheme, social inclusion policy, the establishment of the Scottish Labour Market Intelligence Unit (“Future Skills Scotland”) and a variety of other economic and public policy issues. He was also appointed by Scottish Ministers to the board of the Scottish University for Industry.

During his academic career, Professor Lange has held appointments as professor and chair, head of department and dean of faculty at universities in Scotland and Wales. During his time in Scotland, he was appointed as Britain’s youngest Professor of Economics.

He is the author of more than 150 papers in labour economics, public policy and industrial relations and has authored and edited 10 books and special journal issues. Professor Lange has also presented more than 50 policy and strategy papers to academic, policy and business audiences in 15 countries worldwide. Most of his academic work is grounded in microeconomic theory.

Professorial address:

The Virtues of Multidisciplinary Inquiry and Implications for New Zealand’s Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF)
Professor Thomas Lange PhD
Tuesday August 16
AUT University
Room WA220
Wellesley Campus


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