To Rank, Not to Rank, or to Rank Responsibly?

A DORAat10 Local Event Report

In May 2023, DORA celebrated it’s 10th Anniversary with two plenary sessions and a decentralized weeklong program of local events organized by community members from around the world. Event organizers were given the option to write brief reports on their events that summarize key takeaways and recommendations.

By Güleda Doğan

The Scholarly Communication Network organized an online event on May 17, 2023, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of DORA. The event aimed to discuss the popularity of rankings in the academic community, despite DORA’s efforts to address their flaws. The speakers, Krystian Szadkowski, Emanuel Kulczycki, and Güleda Doğan, along with moderator Zehra Taşkın, talked about the impact of rankings on academic capitalism, evaluation practices, and the negative consequences of gaming the system.

The webinar started with Zehra Taşkın introducing the event and emphasizing the importance of DORA’s anniversary. She explained how rankings have a strong influence in higher education and are connected to academic capitalism. This led to a deeper discussion about evaluation practices and ranking systems.

Krystian Szadkowski, an assistant professor specializing in higher education systems, talked about the relationship between academic capitalism and rankings. He explained how rankings promote academic capitalism globally. Academic capitalism involves market-like activities in higher education, where researchers seek funding and institutions focus on prestige. Krystian urged a shift away from rankings and the development of science systems for the common good.

Emanuel Kulczycki discussed the evaluation process in academia and its challenges. He shared stories of unethical practices and the pressures faced by researchers. Emanuel emphasized the need to balance loyalty to institutions and disciplines and called for a more ethical and balanced evaluation process.

Güleda Doğan addressed the issue of ranking games and manipulations. She highlighted the reasons behind manipulating university rankings and the lack of transparency, consistent methodologies, and reliable data in rankings. Güleda encouraged a more comprehensive evaluation of universities’ contributions to society, rather than relying solely on rankings.

During the Q&A session, participants raised important points. Krystian emphasized the need to use positions of power to convince university leaders to abandon rankings and challenge the corrupt combination of academic capitalism and ranking systems. Güleda and Emanuel stressed the importance of suggesting alternative systems and promoting transparency in science. They also warned against commercial publishers taking over the open science movement. The challenges faced by early career researchers and the role of metrics in their evaluation were also discussed.

The limitations of rankings in recognizing different careers and universities, particularly in peripheral regions, were addressed. Concerns were raised about the lack of consideration for interdisciplinary research within ranking systems. Participants highlighted the unfairness of professors being judged solely by metrics while teaching methodologies that question the validity of those same metrics.

Participants acknowledged the prevalence of rankings in academia and the desire to measure and compare oneself and institutions. However, they emphasized the need to transform the competitive environment and question the excessive reliance on ranking systems. They also discussed the hierarchical structure of universities and the absence of a truly equal system.

Transparency in ranking methodologies, the impact of response rates on country rankings, and the tension between promoting interdisciplinary research and evaluating based on disciplinary boundaries were also discussed. Participants recognized the complexity of these issues and the challenges in finding a balanced approach.

In conclusion, the online event marked the 10th anniversary of the DORA declaration and provided insights into the enduring influence of rankings in the academic community. The speakers discussed the relationship between academic capitalism, evaluation practices, and ranking systems, highlighting their flaws and negative consequences. The event aimed to raise awareness about the harm caused by the relentless pursuit of higher rankings and encouraged a reevaluation of evaluation practices. The 10th anniversary of DORA reminds us of the ongoing challenges in research assessment and the importance of collective efforts to shape a more equitable assessment system. By challenging rankings from positions of power, proposing alternative systems, promoting transparency, and striving for fairer evaluation processes, academia can create an environment that values critical thinking, fairness, and the common good.

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