The Metrics Reloaded

Speaking of metrics, Peter Lawrence has a sharp analysis of the problems of trying to quantize science. His main point is that common measures of scientific excellence are simply misguided: it is nigh impossible to identify great science through metrics. Most truly exciting discoveries are not realised until several years later.

At the same time, more energy is spent on the politics of scientific publication:

It has become vital to get papers into high impact-factor journals; just one such paper can change the prospects of a postdoc from nonexistent to substantial (because of the weight put on such papers by grant-awarding bodies). Two or three such papers can make the difference between unemployment and tenure. These facts have cut a swathe through scientific thinking like a forest fire, turning our thoughts and efforts away from scientific problems and solutions, and towards the process of submission, reviewing and publication.

I’m not saying this is true (I think the case is overstated), but since I am trying to finalize some work to send to journals these days, these questions do enter the equation.

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