Research Remix

August 4, 2011

Just published: Biology Needs a Modern Assessment System for Professional Productivity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Heather Piwowar @ 3:09 pm

Happy to say that the following article has just been published:

McDade, L.A., Maddison, D.R., Guralnick, R., Piwowar, H.A., Jameson, M., Helgen, K.M., Herendeen, P.S., Hill, A., & Vis, M.L. (2011). Biology Needs a Modern Assessment System for Professional Productivity BioScience, 61 (8), 619-625 DOI: 10.1525/bio.2011.61.8.8

As permitted by BioScience Published Authors’ Rights, I include the full text of the article here on my personal web site. For those with access to BioScience, here it is on their site.

The article was also profiled in this month’s BioScience editorial:

Beardsley, T. (2011). How to Change Professional Evaluation in Biology BioScience, 61 (8), 579-579 DOI: 10.1525/bio.2011.61.8.1

(editorial is free on publisher’s site)

I became involved with the article after introducing myself to Rob Guralnick at iEvoBio last year.  I just wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed the talk he had given, particularly the points he raised about academic credit.  Turns out I had something to contribute to a manuscript he was co-authoring.  Hear that, everyone who is hesitant to go up to speakers in your area of research?  Do it!  You’ll often be really glad you did.

One of my favourite parts of the paper is the recommendations and commitments section at the end:

Change must begin with us. Fundamentally, change will result from the amalgamation of the practices of individual scientists. We can start immediately on the path to achieving a better match between patterns of productivity and metrics for professional achievement. The authors and endorsers of this essay commit to taking the following steps immediately:

  • Add nontraditional forms of productivity to our CVs, job applications, and tenure and promotion packages. Include software developed; Web site contributions; openly archived data sets; identification of organisms; numbers of specimens collected, curated, identified; digitized or georeferenced historical museum specimen collection records. Include usage data for these contributions where they are available.
  • Count these annually just as we count other more traditional forms of accomplishment. Encourage junior scientists to do the same.
  • Write favorably about alternative forms of productivity in letters of recommendation and letters of evaluation. Speak directly to the importance of a person’s curation efforts; collecting activities; and sharing of images, data, and specimens as appropriate. Commend those who make their products available in the most usable formats for people inside and outside the sciences.
  • Value these alternative forms of productivity when we sit on departmental promotion and tenure committees. Strive to make sure that they are included in reporting on the outcome of our committees’ deliberations. Broaden job descriptions so that they better correspond to the ways in which modern systematic biology operates.
  • Cite all forms of research reuse in our publications, including published articles, preprints, blogs, data sets, databases, and software. Attribute the original products (and not just secondary publications that describe them) in the formal citations list. As reviewers and editors, remind colleagues about best-practice attribution practices.
  • As authors, reviewers, and editors, work to achieve the citation of publications in which taxa are described, as well as of revisionary and floristic or faunistic works that enabled the identification of the organisms. Ideally, these should appear in the literature cited along with other contributions that critically underpin the new publication.
  • Formally acknowledge collectors whose efforts support systematics research; include them as coauthors when appropriate. Acknowledge collections from which we borrow material using collections IDs when they are available. If collections data from portals (e.g., GBIF) are used, cite both the portal and the individual collections that provided those data.
  • Seek the implementation of peer-review systems for nontraditional publications and digital resources.
  • Finally, educate administrators about the value of an improved assessment model.
 Are you in?  We have met the future and it is us.

1 Comment

  1. Good points! Our lab created several databases that are used by researchers worldwide. Yet for some reason these don’t get the credit they deserve when being considered for promotions/ jobs and ‘high impact’ journals are rarely interested in publishing articles about them.

    Can I also add that science communication to the public should be acknowledged too? This can be through science festivals, newspaper articles, blogs, public lectures and school visits to name a few.

    Comment by confessionsofascientist — October 23, 2011 @ 4:31 am


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