This week I want to deal with something more fundamental to research and science as a whole – how your work is assessed in terms of its ‘scientific significance’. This is an are I have touched on before when discussing taxonomy, and my general whinging about the bad things in a career as an academic but here the issue is at least more limited in scope and has a discussion involving researchers who are not me, so the view is likely to be less biased. The crux of the question therefore is “How bad is the pressure to ‘publish or perish’?”. To read the discussion, follow this link.

2 Responses to “AABQOTW 17”

  1. 1 David Raikow 13/04/2009 at 9:44 pm

    I assume you know about the h-index? (http://rivercontinua.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/publish_or_perish/). My lab might start evaluating where we publish based on impact factors.

  2. 2 David Hone 14/04/2009 at 9:06 am

    Hi David,

    No I didn’t know about that one. It still sufferes from the smae dundamental issue (as far as i am concerned though) which is two guys from very different fileds can go for the same job – the guy who works on bird flight will have to be really really useless not to have more citations than a genuis guy who works on arthropod tracks becuse the former has dozens of not undereds of interested workers to read and cite his papers and the latter might be him and his PhD supervisor. In terms of competition for jobs, until we can fix this kind of issue them these metrics (at least in terms of getting jobs and grants which right now is my big concern) are always going to be seriously flawed.

    I have been told by a number of colelagues that I should target my paprs according to IFs, but I prefer to go for the ‘best’ option in terms of making my science good – putting the right papers in the right jouirnals for ther right audience. Sadly this means that by making my work more accessible and available to a more interested audience, I am actually doing myself a disservice rather than targeting higer ranked journals regardless of who might read it.

    There are also different issues at play in different fields, palaeontology often has a very slow turn-around time with research becuase of the time it takes to colelct and prepare and compare fossils. Compared to the average biologist therefore our citations take much longer to come to fruition and good papers may not pick up more than a handful of citations for years and then become essentail reading (like major monographs). Again, wehn competing with biologist for jobs or grants, I can hadly add to my CV ‘by the way I’m a much btter researcher than I look, those other guys jsut have more people citing their work and faster becuase they work in a different field’ no matter how true it might be and no matter that the hiring committee might not realise this.

    I honestly have no idea what we *should* do, but I have yet to see a metric that even consideres these kinds of issues, (nor can I think they would be easy to account for) but they are important. I know of the inverse effects too where people look brilliant becuase they are minor authors on a few Natue papers becuase they were part of the field team that dug up the material – they get hundreds of citations for just two or three papers, when their actual output is just 5 or 6 papers with the others being ignored.

    It’s just so frustrating. I know hiring committees can’t read every paper of every applicant but so much emphasis seems to be placed on them, and that’s not fair to a great many people I suspect.

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