Mellon Grant to Support Values-Based Metrics for the Humanities and Social Sciences

To support the Humane Metrics for the Humanities and Social Sciences (HuMetricsHSS) initiative, Michigan State University has received a $309,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The collaborative HuMetricsHSS pilot aims to create a values-based framework that will enable humanities and social science scholars to tell more textured stories about the impact of their research and teaching.

The HuMetricsHSS initiative is led by an international group of co-PIs including Christopher Long, Michigan State University, Dean of College of Arts & Letters and Professor of Philosophy; Nicky Agate, Modern Language Association, Head of Digital Initiatives; Rebecca Kennison, K|N Consultants, Executive Director and Principal; Stacy Konkiel, Altmetric, Director of Research & Education; Jason Rhody, Social Science Research Council, Program Director; and Simone Sacchi, LIBER (Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche – Association of European Research Libraries), EU Projects Manager.

It’s our responsibility to ensure that our metrics are shaped by our values and that our practices are not undermined by what can be counted.


“We are reverse-engineering the way metrics have operated in higher education,” said Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University and one of the Principal Investigators (PIs) of the Mellon-funded project. “We begin not with what can be measured technologically, but by listening to scholars themselves as they identify the practices of scholarship that enrich their work and connect it to a broader public.”

In an era in which metrics increasingly shape how scholarship is practiced and evaluated, HuMetricsHSS takes an innovative approach that begins by identifying values that enrich practices of scholarship in order to expand the breadth of what counts as a “scholarly contribution.”

By creating a more “humane” metrics framework, the initiative seeks to diminish the broad reliance on metrics that either presupposes value as reflected in “neutral” indicators (such as citations) or that fails to consider the question of value at all in a scholar’s work. Instead, HuMetricsHSS will also advance a practices-based approach that is holistic, reflective, and transparent.

HuMetrics Participants sitting in outside gazebo
From left to right: Jason Rhody, Nicky Agate, Dean Christopher Long, Rebecca Kennison, Stacy Konkiel, and Simone Sacchi

“In the wide-ranging conversations I’ve had with both faculty and administrators,” observed Rebecca Kennison, Executive Director and Principal of K|N Consultants and co-PI of the HuMetricsHSS grant, “there is clear recognition that we need a different way to measure and reward work done in the humanities and social sciences. The common theme is a desire for approaches that demonstrate the importance of HSS scholarship and reinforce the value of the teaching and research mission.”

The Mellon grant funds an 18-month pilot that will include a series of workshops bringing together scholars from a variety of institutions to identify and define values and practices that enrich scholarship. From these workshops, the HuMetricsHSS team will further refine their approach to better recognize, promote, and nurture scholarly practices by creating a small set of use cases for applying the values-based framework. 

“When what is measured is what counts,” Dean Long said, “it’s our responsibility to ensure that our metrics are shaped by our values and that our practices are not undermined by what can be counted.”