How to reward scientists for doing research that matters

woensdag 15 maart 2017

On January 23rd a group of 21 scientific thought leaders from a wide range of disciplines gathered for a workshop in Washington D.C. to discuss how to improve research quality worldwide. Goals of the day were to identify the fundamental problems with the current rewards and incentives system for scientists, and propose fixes.

The evaluation of scientists based on the impact factors of the journals in which their studies are published, and by the number of citations by other scientist was seen as a deteriorating factor when it comes to quality of research. According to the scientists, overreliance on bibliometric indicators dampen innovation. Frank Miedema, dean of the University Medical Center Utrecht, described how his institution recently started moving away from this numbers game. “Promotion candidates are asked for a short essay elaborating on five domains: academic responsibilities, such a journal reviews and committee work, time with students, clinical work, and community outreach.”

The importance of risk taking and collaboration
The participants agreed that publishing both positive and negative results and sharing intitial research protocols and final data will lead to a reduction of the waste associated with funding rendundant studies. Furthermore it was felt that these changes have the potential to accelerate the overall rate of scientific progress. However, in the current evaluation system these changes would come at a cost to the scientists as they do not get as much credit for publishing in open journals or in clinical bulletins and policy documents that directly improve lives. Also, more recognition for authors whose name is in the middle of the authors list will reward all collaborators evenly and encourage more team efforts.

Chonnettia Jones, Head of Insights and Analysis at the Wellcome trust closed the meeting by stating that “stronger evidence in terms of better research practice would be one way to be able to get funders on board with the suggestions made.”

The website of Metrics features a recapitulation of the meeting.

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