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Responsible Use of Metrics Policy

1.0 Context

1.1 Durham University aims to deliver a critical mass of world-leading research across all academic departments and produce and disseminate research that has a positive impact on global, national and regional challenges and which benefits culture, society, health, the economy and the physical environment. The University recognises that the responsible and ethical use of metrics, in helping to drive forward world-leading research, has the potential to help improve the visibility and the impact of its research.

1.2 The University further recognises that the use of metrics can be complex and that utility varies greatly across disciplines, and even sub-disciplines; there are, therefore, serious limitations in relying on quantitative data or indicators thereof in a manner that is not reflective of disciplinary considerations. It further recognises that improperly used metrics can reinforce existing biases that impinge on the University’s mission to enhance diversity and equality amongst its academic staff, and it is important that they are used with due awareness of their limitations.

1.3 The University has signed the Declaration of Research Assessment and produced a public statement, based on the Leiden manifesto for research metrics that outlines its approach to the use of metrics.

2.0 Scope

2.1 This policy sets out Durham University’s approach to the use of conventional publication metrics across its research activities(such as citations, usage statistics and collaborations). Its scope is necessarily high-level and it is expected that particular situations (e.g. metrics usage for the Research Excellence Framework) may require additional supporting documentation. This policy applies to the use of metrics for Durham staff and students for University purposes and in the support of their aims.

3.0 Governance

3.1 Senate has ultimate responsibility for the use of research metrics in the University. Research Management Committee will be the body responsible for effective oversight and management, including review of metrics usage in light of changing external factors. Research & Innovation Services, the Library, and the Strategic Planning Office will provide practical support for the effective and appropriate usage of research quality indicators.

3.2 Faculties and, as appropriate, departments are responsible for the selection, design and application of discipline-specific metrics, ensuring that they remain in line with the University policy and statement and taking advantage of the professional guidance and support provided by the University.

4.0 Principles for use

4.1    The University undertakes to utilise metrics according to the principles stated in its ‘Responsible use of metrics’ statement and in line with the practice outlined in this policy. 

4.2    Durham University is a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). Any research assessment processes which contribute to decisions in respect to recruitment, promotion or funding decisions should:
1)    be explicit about the criteria used, and recognise that the content of a publication is more important than the publication metrics or the journal or press in which it was published.
2)    recognise the value of all relevant research outputs (including datasets and software), as well as other forms of impact and contribution (e.g. training of early career researchers or evidence of influence on policy and practice).

4.3    The University does not preclude the use of metrics by individual staff for personal use. Indeed, a community informed in metrics usage is an essential guard against the misuse of this medium in relation to outputs and to ensure their benefit is maximised. It encourages staff to abide by the policy when using metrics for personal use, given that the metrics will have to meet the standards set out by the University’s policy and statement on responsible metrics before they will be accepted for University purposes. 

5.    University Responsibilities

5.1    The University is responsible for:
i) ensuring that metrics are used only in compliance with the University’s statement on the responsible use of metrics.
ii) providing appropriate access to and training on the use of appropriate tools for accessing and analysing publication, collaboration and citation data used by the University and external bodies. 
iii) providing best practice guidance and operational support.
iv) engaging proactively with funders, collaborators and regulators to ensure metric usage is responsible beyond the University.
v) ensuring that metrics are used, designed and implemented in line with the approaches set out below.
vi) using metrics in a transparent manner. 
vii) ensuring that there is a route for individuals to raise any issues or concerns regarding inappropriate use of metrics.

5.2    Design and Development
Metrics should be designed in a way that accounts for, and where necessary minimises, their potential shortcomings, and take account of the broad principles for use set out in section 4. These requirements are also relevant to selection of established metrics for use in the University process.  Metrics should be:
i) used in conjunction with qualitative review methods.
ii) used as a ‘basket’ of measures rather than a single measure, to guard against false precision.
iii) appropriate for purpose, discipline, and context.
iv) cognisant of potential bias e.g. h-index favours seniority.
v) aggregated at an appropriate level, normally University, Faculty or department. 
vi) normalised where appropriate (e.g. where a comparison is not like vs like or where metrics are used across boundaries), to account for disciplinary differences and other factors.
vii) used transparently: for any research assessment, processes should be explicit as to which metrics are used, what source of data is used to calculate them, and what insights those metrics are designed to provide.
viii) where possible designed as standard /open reports.
ix) produced with a clear and reproducible methodology.
x) produced in a way that minimises the opportunity for and motivation to ‘play games’.
xi) produced in consultation with stakeholders in line with agreed national and international practice.
xii) produced in compliance with and reference to equality, diversity and inclusion.

5.3    Usage
Metrics should be:
i)    used for limited and stated purposes.
ii)    used transparently.
iii)    used by informed groups.
iv)    used with caution.
v)    (wherever possible) made available to internal stakeholders and users.
vi)    retained for only as long as required and updated at regular intervals.
vii)    only used at an individual identifiable level in exceptional circumstances.
viii)    shared only with appropriate ethical and legal safeguards.
ix)    where metrics are used for promotion or progression then this should be made transparent to those impacted. Should people become aware of improper use of metrics then please refer to 7.2. 

6.    Individual Staff Responsibilities

6.1    Individual staff are responsible for:
i)    ensuring that that their individual records are up to date, complete and accurate. 
ii)    correcting records or to facilitate that correction where possible. 
iii)    using citation analysis tools in a responsible way, having undertaken all relevant training (see 5.1). 

7.    Compliance

7.1    Intentional non-compliance with this policy i.e. which is negligent or which is designed to misrepresent or to cause harm or disadvantage, may be a disciplinary issue. 

7.2    Concerns regarding the use of metrics can be raised with the Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) by contacting  The DPVC Research will then investigate or appoint an appropriate investigating officer.  The purpose of the investigation will be to determine whether or not the concern is valid, and to recommend a course of action as appropriate, e.g. to correct the record or to refer to the appropriate process in the case of potential misconduct.  The individual raising the concern will be updated regarding the outcome.

8.    Related Information

Responsible Use of Metrics Statement

9.    Version Control:

Approval date: 11 October 2022
Approved by: Senate
Contact for further information: