Scientific Performance Assessments Through a Gender Lens

a Case Study on Evaluation and Selection Practices in Academia

  • Matthias Wullum Nielsen Aarhus University

Abstract

The focus on excellence and quality assurance in the academy has spawned a significant increase in the use of bibliometric measures in performance assessments of individual researchers. This article investigates the organizational consequences of this development through a gender lens. Based on a qualitative case study of evaluation and selection practices at a Danish university, a number of potential gender biases related to the use of bibliometric performance measures are identified. By taking as default the research preferences, approaches and career paths of a succesful group of predominantly male scholars, evaluators using bibliometrics risk disadvantaging candidates diverging from the norm with implications for gender stratification. Despite these potential biases, bibliometric measures come to function as technologies supporting a managerial narrative of the gender-blind organization. They adhere to the prevailing ethos of the academic meritocracy by standardizing the criteria for organizational advancement and ensuring transparency and accountability in the selection process. While bibliometric tools in this sense may lead to the recruitment of scientists with a strong CV and track record, they may at the same time prevent many talented researchers diverging from the norm from being recognized and succeed as academics.