Campbell's Law

The most common problem is that all these new systems—metrics, algo­rithms, automated decisionmaking processes—result in humans gaming the system in rational but often unpredictable ways. Sociologist Donald T. Campbell noted this dynamic back in the ’70s, when he articulated what’s come to be known as Campbell’s law: ‘The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making,’ he wrote, ‘the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.’

"Why Quants Don't Know Everything," - http://wrd.cm/1aqjvdj

As I get ready for another year of metricized higher education, it's always nice to remind myself that social psychologists have already documented how policy metrics are quickly counteracted by the corrupting effects of the measure used. In the HE case, we get measured on student feedback, citations indices, and a range of other Key Performance Indicators (I was once advised to cite myself and colleagues to increase our H-index). In any case, given that the problems with this kind of thing are relatively well known, here's hoping that some wisdom may also filter into the system, as this article suggests. Campbell's 1976 paper can be found here: http://bit.ly/LZ2WcS.

timothywstanley@me.com