Craft metrics to value co-production

Liz Richardson and Beth Perry at Nature: “Advocates of co-production encourage collaboration between professional researchers and those affected by that research, to ensure that the resulting science is relevant and useful. Opening up science beyond scientists is essential, particularly where problems are complex, solutions are uncertain and values are salient. For example, patients should have input into research on their conditions, and first-hand experience of local residents should shape research on environmental-health issues.

But what constitutes success on these terms? Without a better understanding of this, it is harder to incentivize co-production in research. A key way to support co-production is reconfiguring that much-derided feature of academic careers: metrics.

Current indicators of research output (such as paper counts or the h-index) conceptualize the value of research narrowly. They are already roundly criticized as poor measures of quality or usefulness. Less appreciated is the fact that these metrics also leave out the societal relevance of research and omit diverse approaches to creating knowledge about social problems.

Peer review also has trouble assessing the value of research that sits at disciplinary boundaries or that addresses complex social challenges. It denies broader social accountability by giving scientists a monopoly on determining what is legitimate knowledge1. Relying on academic peer review as a means of valuing research can discourage broader engagement.

This privileges abstract and theoretical research over work that is localized and applied. For example, research on climate-change adaptation, conducted in the global south by researchers embedded in affected communities, can make real differences to people’s lives. Yet it is likely to be valued less highly by conventional evaluation than research that is generalized from afar and then published in a high-impact English-language journal….(More)”.