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A new study examined in Nature says that university guidelines on tenure and promotion still focus on publication metrics rather than professed values such as public engagement. The study, led by Juan Pablo Alperin, an assistant professor of publishing studies at Simon Fraser University in Canada, looked at 864 documents used for personnel decisions at 129 institutions in the U.S. and Canada. There were relatively few references to keywords such as “community” and “public.” But nearly all the documents mentioned grants, journal articles, books and other readily quantified research outputs at least once. “Community” showed up in documents from research-intensive institutions, but it was most often associated with the academic community, not public outreach. The same went for “impact.”

“Universities talk in a grandiose way about fulfilling the public mission. But when we look at the documents, they aren’t necessarily walking the walk,” Alperin told Nature. “There’s a huge disconnect.” The study is available as a preprint in the Humanities Commons repository.