Illusion of quality and trouble with citations 2

April 29, 2010

Your news report "'Publish or perish' culture distorting research results" (22 April) has clear links with the problem of multiple authorship flagged up by Times Higher Education in "Phone book et al: one paper, 45 references, 144 authors" (8 April).

Many journals have policies that restrict authorship to academics who make significant intellectual contributions to papers, but these will continue to be disregarded so long as scholars are rated on indices that focus on highly cited publications. If the "H-index" were replaced by a metric that assigned proportional points to a publication in relation to the number of authors, these ridiculous battalions would soon melt away.

Further ill effects are created by rating individuals in terms of total grant income, without regard to either the amount of time spent on research or the relationship between income and outputs. This puts pressure on scholars to keep applying for funding, regardless of their ideas, skills or experience.

I know of junior staff who have been told that they should aim to have two or three grants on the go at the same time. This is not good for either researchers or research quality.

Dorothy Bishop, Department of experimental psychology, University of Oxford.

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