How faculty define quality, prestige, and impact in research

Authors : Esteban Morales, Erin McKiernan, Meredith T. Niles, Lesley Schimanski, Juan Pablo Alperin

Despite the calls for change, there is significant consensus that when it comes to evaluating publications, review, promotion, and tenure processes should aim to reward research that is of high “quality,” has an “impact,” and is published in “prestigious” journals.

Nevertheless, such terms are highly subjective and present challenges to ascertain precisely what such research looks like. Accordingly, this article responds to the question: how do faculty from universities in the United States and Canada define the terms quality, prestige, and impact?

We address this question by surveying 338 faculty members from 55 different institutions. This study’s findings highlight that, despite their highly varied definitions, faculty often describe these terms in overlapping ways. Additionally, results shown that marked variance in definitions across faculty does not correspond to demographic characteristics.

This study’s results highlight the need to more clearly implement evaluation regimes that do not rely on ill-defined concepts.