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The Metrics Trap, or Why is Implicit Knowledge Underestimated when Regulation of Science and Education is Handled

The Metrics Trap, or Why is Implicit Knowledge Underestimated when Regulation of Science and Education is Handled

Journal of Institutional Studies, , Vol. 10 (no. 3),

Currently, performance-based regulation penetrates ever more deeply into all spheres of public life. In science and education, metrics are becoming increasingly important component of policy and regulation aimed at ensuring greater efficiency. Quantitative indicators are easier to use when implementing regulatory measures. However, it is hard to understand and adapt policies to the institutional environment and social values using quantitative metrics. Despite the seeming simplicity and efficiency, use of metrics for managerial purposes implies a danger of falling into the institutional metrics trap. The metrics trap is a kind of institutional trap in which fixation on key performance indicators occurs, implicit knowledge (as well as organizational and social values and complex professional activities in organizations) being neglected. Study of the mechanisms for implicit knowledge generation and dissemination is important for understanding the effects of higher education reforms. Metrics based management in the public sector, and, in particular, in science and education, could unleash an uncontrollable situation that would have negative consequences for long-term development. Negative factors include increased manipulation and lower motivation, decline of confidence in the scientific community, and rising social tensions. Implicit knowledge generation and dissemination require personal contact and confidence in the professional community, hence effectively laying the foundations for freedom and creativity of scientific search. However, recognizing the importance of implicit knowledge and qualitative performance characteristics, importance of metrics for the regulatory processes should not be underestimated. In comparative terms, more effective grass-roots metrics based on professional and organizational values and implicit knowledge are contrasted with vertical metrics that are associated with coercive bureaucracy and danger of institutional metrics trap.

Keywords: science and education; regulation; implicit knowledge; institutional economics; metrics; metric fixation; institutional traps

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