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Recruiting by Numbers ꟷ The Diffusion and Translation of Bibliometrics in Academic Hiring Processes

Public Administration
Public Policy
Knowledge
Higher Education
Ingvild Reymert
Institute for Social Research
Ingvild Reymert
Institute for Social Research

Abstract

Bibliometric indicators have become increasingly important in science. They are used in global university rankings, research group evaluations and in promotion and recruitment processes. There are however few empirical in-depth studies on the importance of metrics in recruitment processes, how it has changed over time, and how the use of metrics differs between different academic fields. This could partly be due to the confidentiality of recruitment processes where data of what happens inside recruitment processes are often black boxes. In this paper I investigate to what degree there has been an increased use of metrics in professor recruitment processes over time, and if there are differences in the use between academic fields. I analyse confidential peer review assessments from recruitment processes of professors in four disciplines (economics, sociology, physics and informatics) at the three major universities in Norway between 2000 and 2017. This is unique data that enable us to look inside the secrecy of recruitment processes. Recruitment processes at the heart of organizations that control their membership. The peer review assessments in academic recruitment processes are written by selected tenured scholars who discuss and negotiate the research quality of the applicants’ work within the institutional context of the academic fields. The recruitment processes are thus important in establishing, maintaining and transforming institutional identity. This makes them a good empirical lens to investigate how ideas spread in micro foundation of organizations. In the material I observe an increased reliance on metrics in peer review evaluations, but the use of metrics is very different between the four academic fields. The field discrepancies are more prominent than the change over time. I argue that the increased use of metrics could be explained by isomorphism. The metrics is also a judgement tool that classifies the candidates and legitimate the evaluation being made. Isomorphism is however less suited to explain the diverse use of metrics in the different academic fields. This variation is better explained by Wedlin and Sahlin’s (2017) theories of how ideas are translated in the local context. Ideas do not remain unchanged but develop as they diffuse and are actively being translated by adopters in their different contexts. The spread of metrics is not something unique for the field of science but has taken place in many other fields of society. A better understanding of how metrics are spread in academic recruitment processes and the different use in different academic fields will give us a better understanding of how ideas such as metrics diffuse and are being translated. Wedlin, L., and Sahlin, K. (2017). "The Imitation and Translation of management Ideas", in R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. B. Lawrence, and R. Meyer, (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. 55 City Road, London: SAGE Publications Ltd pp. 102-127.