Friday, 23 August 2013

My (Lack of) Scientific Impact

With initiatives such as the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) I look forward to the decline in use of the journal impact factor as a measure of my scientific worth, but it is not going to do me any good. Distributions of wealth in society invariable follow a Lorenz curve, such that a small proportion of the population holds the vast majority of the wealth. Scientific impact is no different, Darwin’s shopping list would have probably had more scientific impact than most of my publications.
To see what my scientific impact looks like visit my profile at ImpactStory. Here ImpactStory have taken the publications linked to my ORCID and searched numerous social networks and bibliographic databases to discover the scientific impact those publications have had. It is an elegant assessment of my scientific career, though starkly honest. Reading it you get a good impression of the things I've apparently done wrong in my career...
Nevertheless, citations and mentions on social networks still miss much of my impact on science, due to the work I've done on the internet. I get no credit for digitising and mobilising the Flore d'Afrique Centrale, the Maps Scheme Database of the BSBI, the Vice County Census Catalogue, the Flora of North-East England, for Find Wild Flowers etc. Obviously, scientific impact, even with internet-based metrics, is still geared to peer-reviewed scientific publications. Obviously, for each of these projects I could have written a citable paper describing the resource. One often sees such papers written for databases and software, but they rarely contain more information than the website itself.

So I can feel a bit better about my scientific impact in ImpactStory. It doesn't truly reflect all of my impact on science and it is a reminder to assess people's scientific worth broadly. I do not regret the more obscure, non-impactful things I've worked on, because I'm interested in them. However, if I want people to fund my research I need to work on things other people are interested in.
Now that our impact can be judged more directly on the internet, each of us has to work to ensure our publications attract interest. Yet, we should not loose sight of the fact that, at the end of the day, it is the quality of the science that is really important, not your number of retweets.

No comments:

Post a Comment