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Research Impact: Responsible Metrics

Provides an overview of the Responsible Metrics movement and resources to support the responsible and equitable evaluation of scholarly work, particularly in the wake of unpredictable challenges.

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Research Impact in Uncertain Times

Assessments of research impact typically assume that researchers continuously and predictably produce measurable scholarly outputs over time. However, in practice, scholarly work doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Researchers have lives outside of their academic work. As such, researchers’ ability to conduct their research, teach, and participate in the scholarly conversation may be unavoidably interrupted, delayed, or otherwise redirected during times of crisis and other major life changes. These include outbreaks of disease, natural disasters, and personal life changes such as births, deaths, relocations, or other changes. This page provides resources for researchers to consult when preparing to face these types of challenges. This guide was first developed during the COVID-19 global pandemic that began to significantly affect the United States in 2020 and, as such, may point to many resources specific to COVID-19. However, it is our hope that the information will be applicable across all sorts of situations and life events. 

Adapting to unpredictable circumstances: prepare to tell your story

In times of crisis or unpredictability, it is very likely that each of us will have less capacity (time, energy, access to usable workspace and equipment, mental focus, etc.) to do our usual work, as well as an onslaught of new tasks and responsibilities. The following list in many ways feels deeply unsatisfactory, because it reads as just another list of tasks to do--the last thing anyone needs at such a time. Not every item on this list will apply to every person--rather, it is meant to offer suggestions and reminders about how crisis may affect different aspects of your work, and your interactions with different people and institutions. 

  • Carefully review any policy changes from your institution, attending especially to whether any action is required of you, such as requesting or opting in to an extension, and attending to any new deadlines. 
  • Keep documentation from university leadership with all instructions and dates (e.g., you must switch to teaching online from this date, work must take place remotely as of this date, etc.). Consider whether to keep records of other major dates that affect how society operates as a whole--e.g. are schools closed, are public places closed, etc. 
  • Communicate with publishers--journals, presses, etc.--where you have manuscripts pending publication, or where you have been asked to review someone else's work.
  • You may find yourself doing strange work that you don’t know how to count because you haven’t done it before. To the extent possible, at least keep records of relevant data points in case you want them later: how many students in your class, how many classes you had to switch over to remote learning, etc.
  • Keep track of conference presentations accepted, even if never given because the conference was canceled, on your CV. Likewise, note projected and actual publication dates for publications that may be delayed, etc. 
  • Communicate with any funders about their expectations for meeting grant deadlines and deliverables, and spending down funds as planned (What if you can’t take planned travel? What if you can’t hire because your lab is closed?). During national or global events, funders may proactively communicate with PIs. Be sure you understand any implications for your work.
  • If you receive a stop work order from a funder, work immediately with your office of sponsored projects to ensure appropriate steps are taken and documentation happens.
  • If you’re getting training/support from a colleague, be sure to acknowledge their effort to their department! When you can, consider writing a letter or memo, or at least keep a private list of who helped you and be sure to acknowledge when you have time. This could really help them!
  • If you are being asked to provide additional training or support for colleagues in order to help them put courses online, adapt their work, etc., keep track of how many/how much time you spend on this extra labor.

This may all feel like too much. In short, the suggestion is to keep records--at least save emails!--that pertain to the way an event affects your work, until you know you won't need it. When expectations and requirements are changing day-to-day, it is difficult to predict what you might be asked to account for in the future. Leaving a trail for yourself may help you to advocate for yourself and your work in the future, when the initial feeling of urgency around the crisis has passed.