If the Indicator Game is the Answer, Then What is the Question?

  • Alan Irwin Copenhagen Business School
Keywords: indicators, metrics, academic careers


This contribution begins by arguing that indicators in themselves do not have effects, but that it is crucial to understand which questions in the wider culture and governance of academia their use speaks to. Drawing partly on the author’s own experience in university management but also as an STS scholar, five important questions are presented to which indicators provide a kind of answer: ranging from public accountability over public research investment to intellectual and existential uncertainty. It is argued that understanding the wider institutional and professional logics is crucial if “better tunes” are to be developed in response to the indicator game: both to strengthen the standing and identity of the field and to support emerging scholars in this challenging context. The paper closes by inviting STSers––and particularly our professional institutions––to celebrate and, at the same time, take a stand for our diverse values, academic practices and notions of quality.

Author Biography

Alan Irwin, Copenhagen Business School
I am a professor in the Dept. of Organization at Copenhagen Business School.
17 Feb 2017
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