Monday, October 29, 2007

The Mismeasurement of Science

Peter Lawrence has written an interesting article on the (mis)use of measurement to assess "quality" and/or "impact" of scientists. It's called The Mismeasurement of Science, and appeared in Current Biology, August 7, 2007: 17 (15), r583. You can download it here.

Highly recommended reading, not only for scientists, but also as another interesting example of how a simple-minded approach to measuring "quality" or "productivity" has a wide range of dysfunctional implications. I particularly liked the following:

The measures seemed, at first rather harmless, but, like cuckoos in a nest, they have grown into monsters that threaten science itself. Already, they have produced an “audit society” in which scientists aim, and indeed are forced, to put meeting the measures above trying to understand nature and disease.

I suspect that similarly simple minded application of software engineering measures (such as Active Time in Hackystat) would have similarly disastrous consequences were anyone to actually take them seriously.

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