With only approximately 2 out of 10 individuals with Ph.D.’s employed in their field of study, higher education institutions are not awarding tenure simply because they don’t have to (1). Regardless of how you feel about tenure, one thing is sure: consistent with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s push for “Performance Pay”, academics will be more rigorously evaluated based on their performance. (2)
Traditionally, performance evaluations consisted primarily of a consideration of credentials, number of refereed publications, and a rudimentary estimate of the impact those publications have had. (3) Credentials, publications, and citations can take years to accrue; do they truly reflect the quality of work being done?
Considerations of other factors of performance are quickly catching on. Aside from teaching evaluations “altmetrics” are the most notable of these.(4)
What are Altmetrics?
It may take a lifetime to be important but it certainly doesn’t take long to do important work. Altmetrics is a new effort to evaluate the social importance of academic work. Stephen Curry puts it clearly by stating that altmetrics is a measure of what is “exchanged during coffee breaks at academic conferences.” (5)