Correspondence | Published:

Faculty cuts

University managers misled by metrics

Nature volume 511, page 534 (31 July 2014) | Download Citation

University administrators wishing to arrive at rapid decisions in evaluating staff performance may ignore metrics that seem too sophisticated (Nature 510, 444; 2014, and see J. Adams Nature 510, 470–471; 2014). At King's College London, for example, appallingly blunt metrics are being wielded to determine who should be made redundant.

Some faculty members there are being appraised on grant income or hours of contact teaching, but not both, and without regard to indicators such as publication record, teaching quality or editorial-board membership (see These metrics are having a disproportionate effect on staff with both research and teaching commitments — ironically, the university's stated ideal.

Total grant income is in any case a questionable proxy for research quality, and cannot be used to compare the performance of researchers who have different outgoings and funding sources. Examples include basic and medical researchers, or those who work on model organisms that vary markedly in expense. Their grant sizes are unrelated to the quality of their research.

Such misleading measures cannot inform the shrewd decision-making that is essential for tightly funded higher-education management.

Author information


  1. King's College London, UK.

    • Thomas Butts


  1. Search for Thomas Butts in:

Competing interests

T.B.: I am employed in a temporary position as a postdoctoral scientist at King's College London. It is unclear at this point how my status will be affected following the redundancies.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas Butts.

About this article

Publication history




By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing