Judging science without looking at productivity?

The Netherlands has had its fair (or more than fair) share of scientific fraud. In an attempt to reduce this, the Dutch scientific organizations have decided to evaluate the quality of science using three instead of four criteria. This means they leave out “productivity” as a means to assess quality of the Dutch universities and institutions. The three remaining measures are “scientific quality”, “societal relevance” and whether the science is “future-proof”. The scientific organizations remark that this is a way to say that “more isn’t always better”. However, if you read further it says that scientific quality will be assessed by looking at output in the form of papers and books.

I’m a bit puzzled: productivity isn’t a measure for quality but quality is assessed by looking at papers? I don’t even want to get started about this focus on societal relevance. What will happen to all sorts of science that don’t¬†immediately lead to curing cancer? And even worse: what does it mean that science has to be future-proof?

I think it’s important to make an effort to reduce scientific fraud but I’m unsure whether this is the way to do this. I think papers will remain the currency of science, and it seems impossible to assess scientific quality without looking at papers. Or am I wrong here?

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1 Comment

Filed under absurd, academia, authorship, cultural differences, ethics, in the news, review, science

One response to “Judging science without looking at productivity?

  1. Science evaluation is an awfully difficult task. Nobody really knows well what to do. And as you noted in your post, good intentions like those from the Dutch may really fire back. I think we should give a chance to chance. A bit of randomness may help. I’ve been writing about this in my blog, http://mariobarbatti.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/among-equals-throw-dices/

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