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ARCOM Conferences

36th Annual Conference – Glasgow, UK
7-9 September 2020

Track 1: The Tyranny Of Metrics

Lead: Hiral Patel and Stuart Green, School of the Built Environment, University of Reading

Metrics are all around us. To a large extent they dictate the issues which are seen to be important, and they dictate the parameters within which the debate is conducted. They prevail across scales, from measuring the contribution of the construction sector to national economies right through to the performance management of individuals. To express doubts concerning the efficacy of such metrics serves only to marginalise dissenters from the mainstream. Even the use of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an adequate measure of a country’s economic progress has been repeatedly questioned but seemingly to no avail. Closer to home, metrics become ever more influential in shaping academic careers (Elangovan and Hoffman, 2019). Impact factors and citation counts are in danger of becoming ends in themselves as indicative proxies of research quality. Environmental assessment methods are similarly dominated by metrics setting out the rules of the game. At the macro end of the scale, Greta Thunberg has accused the UK Government of creative carbon accounting. And yet the juggernaut of metrics rolls forever on seemingly unabashed.

Drawing inspiration from Jerry Muller’s book titled ‘The tyranny of metrics’ (Muller, 2018), this track invites critical reflections on the prevalence and performativity of metrics in the construction sector in different national contexts. Empirical accounts and methodological debates are also welcome. Some indicative themes for this track include:


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