Re-writing academic success: tackling the lack of equity in academic metrics for women and marginalised groups in STEM

Supervisory Team:  Valeriya Komyakova, Myriam Lacharit√©, Harriet Goodrich

Brief project description:

In a highly competitive Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) academic system, ‘metrics’ have emerged to quantitatively compare success across individuals. Today, metrics like the h-index reward high publication output and funding success and are used to drive employment and promotions in academia. H-index’s combine productivity and citation rate, but don’t consider publication quality or the diverse range of research activities that an academic may engage in, including teaching, mentoring and community outreach. These metrics therefore represent an incomplete and biased assessment of an individual’s contributions to their field and may work to amplify the impacts of career insecurity, increase pressure to publish, and contribute to discrimination by gender, race, and geographic location. Based on how these metrics are quantified and valued by academia, their use has the power to skew ‘success’ in favour of research teams with low diversity, led by senior, white, male academics from universities based in Western countries. The development and use of alternative metrics can provide a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of research impact and help to incentivise positive behaviour in academia. Metrics that work to capture the full range of an individual’s research output and impact will therefore be necessary to develop a more modern, inclusive future for science and academia.

This project aims to conduct a systematic literature review of how barriers faced by women and representatives of other marginalised groups in STEM academia, particularly marine and biological sciences in Australia, Canada/United States and the UK, impact current academic metrics. The project will then rank common metrics based on strengths and weaknesses, and suitability of application in the Australian context. Finally, the project will aim to propose an alternative metric of success that can reduce some of the weakness seen in commonly used approaches. This project would use publicly-available data (e.g., STEM Equity Monitor Data) to assess the suitability of alternative metrics.

This project is suitable for Honours or Masters research projects.

Skills students will develop during this research project: The student should have strong skills in literature review and synthesis, and a keen interest in enhancing equity in STEM and some experience in statistics and R

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
April 5, 2023