Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bad taste and the sins of academia

There is a very thoughtful article in Angewandte Chemie
The Seven Sins in Academic Behavior in the Natural Sciences
by Wilfred F. van Gunsteren

It is worth reading slowly and in full. He highlights the negative influence of "high impact" journals and discusses many of the same issues as the recent cover story in the Economist. He has some nice examples of each of seven sins.

But, there was one paragraph that really stood out.
Administrative officials at universities and other academic institutions should refrain from issuing detailed regulations that may stifle the creativity and adventurism on which research depends. They should rather foster discussion about basic principles and appropriate behavior, and judge their staff and applicants for jobs based on their curiosity-driven urge to do research, understand, and share their knowledge rather than on superficial aspects of academic research such as counting papers or citations or considering a person’s grant income or h-index or whatever ranking, which generally only reflect quantity and barely quality. If the curriculum vitae of an applicant lists the number of citations or an h-index value or the amount of grant money gathered, one should regard this as a sign of superficiality and misunderstanding of the academic research endeavor, a basic flaw in academic attitude, or at best as a sign of bad taste.
Wow! This is so unlike the standard (and unquestioned) mode of operation in Australia and many other countries.

I guess ETH-Zurich [where van Guntersen just retired from] operates in a different manner. Previously, I posted about the criteria that Stanford uses for tenure. So universities that want to be "world class" might want to "follow best practise".

No comments:

Post a Comment