Spurious statistics 2

February 21, 2008

Your report reveals all too well what happens when scientific research citations are diverted into a new role as data for the subsequent allocation of funding ("Researchers may play dirty to beat REF", 7 February). They cease to be neutral intellectual scaffolding and instead become competitive weaponry. Scientists change their citation behaviour accordingly.

What would MPs say if they were told that government funding for their constituencies were to be allocated according to a citation index of the number of times they appear in Hansard? They would rightly respond that such a system would be unwise in principle, open to manipulation in practice and disruptive of the free flow of debate.

So it is with the proposed science citation index. Save Britain's scientists from having to cook the books to get funding. Save the research citation for the advancement of research. And save us all from the lure of spurious statistics over reasoned judgment.

Penelope J. Corfield
London SW11

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