Time is but a shadow, photo by author.

No Quality Without Equity

Chris Long

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In October 2019, I attended a three-day workshop on Driving Institutional Change for Research Assessment Reform jointly convened by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) on the beautiful HHMI campus in Chevy Chase, Maryland. My time with the 60 or so participants in the workshop, which included researchers, librarians, administrators, funders, members of learned societies, and a wide range of colleagues from across the sciences, afforded me an opportunity to reflect further on the transformative power of a values-based approach to higher education reform in general, and to research assessment in particular.

Although the HuMetricsHSS initiative has grown out of work in the humanities and social sciences, it was encouraging to see the extent to which our emphasis on being intentional about identifying values, disciplined about enacting them in practice, and focused on aligning them with funding and reward mechanisms resonated with the scientists gathered at the workshop.

Having been assigned to read “Excellence R Us”: university research and the fetishization of excellence, many of us arrived at the workshop with a healthy skepticism of the rhetoric of “excellence” in relation to research assessment. The article argues that the pervasive appeal to “excellence” in University mission statements and strategic plans is vacuous because it is deployed without qualification across a wide variety of contexts and it’s pernicious because it creates cultures of competition inconsistent with qualities of good research. Yet, however limited they may be, appeals to “excellence” express a desire for quality that is the central concern of all research assessment.

One important thread of discussion that ran throughout the workshop involved the deep connection between the question of quality and the commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Over the course of three days, we returned again and again to an important point:

Diversity, inclusion, and equity are constitutive of good science.

If diversity points to the quality of difference itself, and inclusion names a respect for difference that commits us to create welcoming environments in which power is shared, equity speaks to the structures — policies, guidelines, and practices — that…

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Chris Long

MSU Foundation Professor, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters and of the MSU Honors College; Co-Founder of @PubPhilJ; Co-PI of @HuMetricsHSS.