Planning 2012-2013

Many thanks to those who rose to the challenge posed in my last blog regarding the appropriate KPI for research outputs. We discussed the comments that were posted, plus a number of others that people suggested verbally, at the Faculty Executive Board meeting yesterday. We concluded that the most easily measurable and most useful metric is ‘percentage of staff publishing at least one output in a top quartile journal’, where journal is interpreted loosely – it could mean an output from a conference in some disciplines for example. The notion of top quartile is also subject specific of course. The exact wording might need some tweaking, but we believe this to be a useful metric since, inter alia, it will enable us to plot our progress towards the next REF exercise after 2014. Granted, it is nothing like as rigorous as our IQA2 process, but then the latter consumed a great deal of time and we don’t want to do this every year. In essence, we are using the quartile ranking of the journal as a proxy for quality – dangerous is some instances perhaps, but in the main there is likely to be a good correlation.

So how will we use this and other KPIs? Firstly, this is an open blog and our KPIs and targets are rather sensitive information. Therefore the complete list of Faculty KPIs and targets will be posted on the intranet in due course. Each School Management Team in SAgE already has these together with historic performance data over the past few years. We have asked them to consider this information and figure out what the targets for each school should be, over the next two years (that is, the academic year 2013-2014 and 2014-2015). We expect that schools will meet or exceed certain targets, but will not be able to achieve others. That’s fine in a Faculty as heterogeneous as SAgE – the important point is that when combined we can meet the strategic aspirations of the Faculty and hence NU.

The Faculty Management Team will discuss targets with the schools at the annual planning meetings in February/March next year. Once the new planning process gets into full swing, the annual planning meetings will provide the opportunity for schools to review how well they did against the previous year’s targets, and to use this information in planning future strategy. Remember that, however well we try to stick to plan in meeting these targets, the external environment is likely to change in unexpected ways (no change there!), so it’s very likely that we will need to make regular adjustments to our strategy. That’s the purpose of the KPIs and targets – to ensure that we remain on track and are not de-railed by unexpected events.


About stevehomans

Professor Steve Homans is a structural biologist with an international reputation in the study of biomolecular interactions. He obtained his first degree and DPhil in Biochemistry at Oxford University, and secured his first academic position as Lecturer at the University of Dundee. In 1998 he received the Zeneca award from the Biochemical Society and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Prior to his current appointment he was Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. Professor Homans brings extensive expertise of academic leadership and management, with a particular emphasis on organisational change.
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One Response to Planning 2012-2013

  1. Definitely would be progress — but seems like it is setting the bar quite low in terms of how the KPI reflects the aspirations of SAGE — and distinguishes between “good enough” and “excellent”.

    I presume the motivation for this particular KPI originates in a desire to design a measure that is indicative of the percentage of staff that would very likely be submitted to a future REF (or something like that). But this doesn’t indicate the degree to which research groups (which have in the past been key to our research strategy) are performing well above this (relatively low) baseline. World leading research groups will be producing significantly more than one top quartile publication per academic per year (we know this from looking at the world leading groups in our own fields).

    As we are looking to promote “excellence” then it might make sense to have other indicators that are more than just “how many staff are likely to be submittable to the REF” (though I can see that indicator might in itself be useful) — something that reflects an aspiration to be world leading in all areas of SAgE research.

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