Last week it was my turn to suggest a paper for our lab’s Reading Group. I chose this excellent piece by Edwards and Roy (2017) on the importance of maintaining scientific integrity in the 21st century climate of perverse incentives and hyper-competition. I’m sure we have all come across with stories about scientific misconduct at some point of our academic careers. And every now and there are public discussions about how harmful it is to use simple metrics such as the number of publications and various citation metrics to measure the performance of scientists and institutions. But what I particularly liked about this paper was that it really succeeded in painting the bigger picture. That misconduct is not restricted to just few incidental cases but that it is an actual increasing problem that has ramifications far beyond the academic bubble we scientists like to wrap ourselves into. It was an excellent, shocking and thought-provoking read, and I highly recommend it to everyone working in research.
As usual, the discussion about the topic and this paper is difficult to summarize into a short blog post, but if you’re interested, check out the post I wrote on QAECO’s pages. The points made in this article resonated strongly with many of us, myself very much included. It is quite hard to grasp how much academia has changed in just few decades. It is also hard to understand why it is so difficult to change the way academia works, given the accumulating amount of evidence on the flaws of the current metric-based systems. Surely we should be able to come up with something better than this?
Edwards M.A. and Roy S. (2017) Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition. Environmental Engineering Science, 34(1): 51-61. doi:10.1089/ees.2016.0223.