NextGen Voices



NextGen VOICES: Results

We asked young scientists to answer this question:

Do publications (number and impact) convey the true value of an early-career scientist?

In the 1 April 2016 issue, we ran excerpts from the many interesting responses we received. Below, you will find the full versions of those essays (in the order they were printed) as well as a selection of the other submissions we received (ordered alphabetically by author name).

Would you like to participate in the next NextGen VOICES survey? To make your voice heard, go to http://scim.ag/NG_19.

(Can't get enough NextGen? See the results of previous surveys at Future of a Generation, Definition of Success, Experiences that Changed Us, Big Ideas, Experiments in Governing, Science Communication's Future, Science Time Travel, Work-Life Balance, Enduring Ideas, Science Advocacy, Science Ethics, Global Collaboration, Missing Classes, Tools for the Future, Postdocs Reimagined, Revolutionary Science, and Political Priorities)

Follow the NextGen VOICES survey on Twitter with the hashtag #NextGenSci.

Essays in print

Papers published in high-impact journals are often multi-disciplinary, collaborative studies on highly topical research questions. Depending on the working environment, early-career scientists may or may not have the opportunity to apply various techniques, establish collaborations, or pursue certain topics. Thus, young researchers have limited control over the number and impact of their publications. But being a good scientist is not just about impact factor; it is asking the right questions, helping your peers find solutions, discussing your work, and sharing negative results. Networks like ResearchGate already include these criteria for evaluating scientists, irrespective of their career stage.
Claudia S. Barz
Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine, INM-2, Research Centre Jülich, Jülich, 52428, Germany and RWTH Aachen, Medical School, Aachen, 52074, Germany.
E-mail: c.barz{at}fz-juelich.de

The whole capitalist vibe behind science is problematic. We tout science as a meritocracy that is fun and innovative, but if scientists don't fit into a narrow set of constraints, they aren't seen as "valuable." Despite article after article explaining that you can't predict impactful science a priori, that's what we're trying to do. And we're trying to codify it. Until science becomes a true meritocracy, and until equality in terms of race, gender, lifestyle, and economic background becomes a reality, the system is inherently flawed. Young scientists should be valued by their commitment to education, their dedication to fighting inequality in science, and their efforts to democratize science.
Melodie Elane Benford
Pearland, TX 77584, USA.
E-mail: melodie.benford{at}gmail.com

A scientist should be evaluated with respect to his work environment. This can include country, institutions, group, and people with which he is working. Then his performance should be normalized with these factors.
Manoj Kumar Mishra
Space Physics Laboratory, VSSC, Thiruvananthapuram, 695022, India.
E-mail: manojkmishra79{at}gmail.com

Young scientists should be evaluated based on their ability to convey ideas, interpret data, resolve problems, and generate novel scientific ideas. These values can be easily overlooked if one focuses only on publications and impact factors. A mediocre young scientist may have good publications merely by being at the right place, with the right person, and at the right time. The true value of an early-career scientist should be evaluated by his or her presentation performance, interviews, recommendations from previous supervisors, academic performance, and awards.
Tiong Sun Chia
Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Perth, 6009, Australia.
E-mail: tiongsun{at}gmail.com

Young scientists should be judged by the quality of their intellectual development: breadth and depth of subject knowledge, technical skills, ability to frame research questions, and creativity of the solutions they propose. These are things that can only be evaluated through written submissions, genuine letters from referees (not dishonest, hyperbole-laden "recommendations"), and, perhaps most important, through an interview. It is important to consider achievement relative to opportunity and not to reward opportunity as if it were achievement. For example, success in a rich country or institution is easier than in a poor one; researching in a prestigious institute is an opportunity, not an achievement.
Endymion Cooper
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences
Queen Mary University of London, London, E1 4NS, UK.
E-mail: endymion.dante.cooper{at}gmail.com

Number and impact of publications at this stage depends too much on external factors: quality of supervision; public interest in research area; and, more than anything, luck. There is much more to being a good scientist than simply publishing research. Evaluation of young scientists must adopt a holistic approach, taking into account the challenges faced, their level of commitment, plus involvement in non-research–focused activities, such as teaching and public engagement.
Kate Newton
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT, UK.
E-mail: ken155{at}bham.ac.uk

The true value of a young scientist's career would be better explained by some sort of "networking index." This would let us know if rookies were capable of establishing new contacts and successfully collaborating with other research groups (and/or other model systems) rather than just being restricted to their immediate circle during their early careers. Index estimates could be expressed by the number of publications weighted by the number of different authors—and/or different model systems—involved in such publications. A high networking index would give an idea of a scientist's independent thinking and collaborative experience, both quintessential for global scientific collaboration.
Nicolás Bonel
División Zoología de Invertebrados I, Departamento de Biología, Bioquímica y Farmacia, Universidad Nacional del Sur-CONICET, Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires (RA-B8000ICN), Argentina.
E-mail: nicobonel{at}gmail.com

Scientific impact needs to be measured only for the previous 5 years. However, we need a modified h index that also takes into account the number of authors: First three and last three positions get standard h index evaluation. The value for an author in the middle should be the impact factor divided by the number of authors. The h index should also be for only the past 5 years. This way it is not a function of age.
Charles de Bock
Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB), Leuven, 3000, Belgium.
E-mail: charles.debock{at}cme.vib-kuleuven.be

Avogadro, Planck, Euler. The value of a scientist is rarely determined by a number, with notable exceptions like these—scientists who discovered the importance of certain numbers that advanced our ability to understand the world around us. And that, ultimately, is any scientist's true goal. We are never remembered for the number of papers we've published, but for how we advance our fields. Suggesting otherwise to young scientists—the future of science—will distract from our true purpose and discourage future Boltzmanns, Faradays, and Bohrs. I am 18 years old, and I have published no papers. My value as a scientist is anything but zero.
Kelsey Farenhem
Vagelos Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences, University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: farek{at}sas.upenn.edu

Quantification of work published during the Ph.D. candidacy does not convey the true value due to the large impact of the guidance of the adviser. Therefore, in the years after the Ph.D., postdoctoral and early-career researchers should be funded directly from national agencies. This would allow them to be more independent and to prove their ability to set their own research goals, manage their work, and lead others in pursuit of new scientific discoveries. After this period, their independently achieved results can be quantified in the same way as those of their more established peers.
Jernej Zupanc
Seyens Ltd., Ljubljana, 1000, Slovenia.
E-mail: jernej.zupanc{at}seyens.com

Research addressing real societal problems and the ability to engage the public conveys the true value of scientist. Young scientists should present their hardy science to the public so that the society in general gets involved in the ongoing scientific discussion and related policies. We can measure the public interest of the author's work through media circulation of the news or altimetrics. Furthermore, the value of a scientist increases by his participation in public interest publications and activities, and how effectively he provides his opinions and ideas to benefit society.
Esraa Elsanadidy
Department of Chemistry, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06268, USA.
E-mail: esraa_elsanadidy{at}yahoo.com

Neither number nor impact factor of the candidate's publication are sufficient to assess the true value of an early-career scientist. If this were the case, a number of well-known scientists who published path-breaking results after a long lull, as well as Nobel laureates, would have been labeled as underachievers. Whereas the number of publications is evaluated as a measure of productivity of the scientist, and impact of publications as the level of importance of the article (which in itself is influenced by whether the topic in question is trending and therefore the subject of attention of major scientific journals), the true value of an early-career scientist can only be measured by conducting a detailed interview that spans several days and is designed to assess the scientist's thought process and internal motivations. At best, publication records can only serve as props to scientific reputation, rather than a deciding factor of scholastic worth.
Suchitra D. Gopinath
Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, NCR Biotech Science Cluster, Faridabad, 121001, India.
E-mail: sgopinath{at}thsti.res.in

If publications were everything, young researchers with great ideas in less established fields with less publication success or long field work would be always at disadvantage compared with others who need less time to complete an analysis or who have many journals in their field in which they can publish. Early-career scientists should also be evaluated based on their dedication to a topic, their radicalism, and how much they stick to their ideas. Sometimes there is a huge time lag when measuring publication impact. How long did it take before the first climate change papers really made an impact? Ideas might take a while until they become relevant or known or established.
Marten Winter
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, sDiv-Synthesis Centre, Leipzig, 04103, Germany.
E-mail: marten.winter{at}idiv.de

A far more appropriate measure would be number of citations, or alternatively h index. However, in my opinion, even these values can be conflated or undermined. It would be a far better to look at an early-career scientist's publication list in relation to a metric that correlates years since publication and citations received. This metric would assess value by recognizing influence on others and longevity, and would in turn reinforce desirable traits such as scientific accuracy (longevity) and applicability (influence).
K. Christian Kemp
POSTECH, Pohang, 37662, South Korea.
E-mail: ckemp{at}postech.ac.kr

For young scholars, high impact scores represent how well they can jump through the hoops put in place by older generations of scholars. Publishing in high-impact journals demonstrates tremendous skill, and shows how well a young scholar fits in. Both signal that they are desirable job candidates. However, not having high-impact publications need not imply a lack of skills. It may indicate discipline-crossing, boundary-breaking work that can only be published in niche journals. Hiring young scholars based on the value of their high-impact publications alone thus risks reinforcing normal science while deferring paradigmatic shifts.
Rense Nieuwenhuis
Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) of Stockholm University, Stockholm, 10691, Sweden.
E-mail: rense.nieuwenhuis{at}sofi.su.se

"Impact" should be judged qualitatively by experts by assessing papers, documentation for public data sets (especially experimental designs and protocols), software and data analysis code, and/or outreach and communication efforts. Ideally, avoid the word "impact" because it is too strongly linked to the (pernicious) Journal Impact Factor metric.
J. Steen Hoyer
Computational and Systems Biology Program, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63132, USA and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, MO 63132, USA.
E-mail: j.s.hoyer{at}wustl.edu

It takes time to shepherd papers through the peer-review process and further time for studies influenced by published papers to themselves achieve publication—time that early-career scientists have not yet had. Early-career scientists should also be evaluated by how many revisions and resubmissions they have completed after rejection. Those metrics are an indicator of scientific grit, or the ability to persevere when met with adversity. The life of a scientist is to constantly face rejection. Only the best continue to improve and advocate for their work after being told that it's not good enough (yet).
Rosa Li
Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
E-mail: rosa.li{at}duke.edu

Young researchers should be evaluated on their ability to execute solid and honest science, rather than on how flashy their findings are. There needs to be less of a gap in reward between the competent execution of a well-planned experiment that ultimately leads to a negative result and one that leads to a positive one. To that end, evaluations could be partly based on project proposals that demonstrate the ability to plan and think through relevant topics for the field.
Grace Lindsay
Neurobiology and Behavior Program, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.
E-mail: gwl2108{at}columbia.edu

Theoretically oriented early-career scientists should be valued by papers—by quality but not quantity, by citation rates but not impact factors. Just see Ronald Coase, who received the Nobel Prize in Economics mainly for his early publication, "The Nature of the Firm," when he was 27. Meanwhile, practice-based young scientists should be valued based on the practical effects of their research results. For example, doctors should be appraised based on their success in curing their patients, whereas R&D personnel should be valued based on their new product development.
Dayuan Li
Collaborative Innovation Center of Resource-conserving and Environment-Friendly Society and Ecological Civilization, Central South University, Changsha, 410083, China.
E-mail: bigolee{at}163.com

Publications are one component of how a young scientist should be evaluated. It is important to show productivity and a commitment to excellence, but equally important are the intangible aspects of one's approach to science. With regards to hiring and promotion, factors such as enthusiasm, collegiality, mentoring qualities, and the ethical conduct of research must be evident. It is upon these attributes that a satisfying and influential scientific career will be built. This will require a shift in attitude from the administrators of research as well as a significant time commitment to understanding the true potential of a scientist.
Anthony O'Mullane
School of Chemistry, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD 4001, Australia.
E-mail: anthony.omullane{at}qut.edu.au

These numbers do not represent the value of an early-career scientist. I often sit at conferences watching presentations and find my ideas being scooped by people with five co-authors who are all full-time researchers. Because I am an early-career scientist who chose to focus on educating instead of researching, I have trouble making the time to keep up with people teaching only a handful of credits a year. Does teaching 33 credits a year prohibit me from being considered a scientist? If publications are the measure, it most certainly does, yet I think I do play an important role in the scientific community: educating future scientists. How can we measure the value of those who choose to educate or have large service commitments to the community?
Keah C. Schuenemann
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Denver, CO 80217, USA.
E-mail: kschuene{at}msudenver.edu

We should be evaluated according to our contribution to the publication. If we only take into account the number of publications and the impact of the journals, we cannot see how good a young scientist is, because in many cases we are allowed authorship on a publication simply because we are in charge of cleaning the laboratory glassware and helping with very simple experiments. Such a publication is not comparable to a publication on which there are very few authors and the young scientist is the primary contributor.
Daniel Ramirez
Centro de Investigación, Innovación y Desarrollo de Materiales, University of Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia.
E-mail: estiben.ramirez{at}udea.edu.co

The ability of an early-career scientist to publish is dependent on too many factors lining up correctly. They need supportive mentorship and supervisors, proper funding, and proper facilities and infrastructure to enable them to produce. Furthermore, the literature rewards positive results and provides no prestige for wrong ideas. Based on today's evaluation criteria, which seem to be numbers/impact-heavy, we have produced a generation of independent scientists, most of whom have produced incremental "innovations" throughout their careers. Unfortunately, I think that a better approach will be to subject all scientists to Yelp-like review criteria. Anonymous (or voluntarily self-identifying) reviewers will be able to grade a scientist based on their past interactions, on a number of points including bench-related criteria (methodology and efficiency), thinking ability (innovativeness of ideas and creativity), and mentorship and leadership abilities. Of course, the scientists themselves can respond directly to reviews posted about them. Furthermore, the quality of the reviewers contributes to the weight of their rating; in other words, the comments of the best scientists about someone else will be weighted more heavily than the comments of an inexperienced hire.
Shann S. Yu
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC), Lausanne, CH-1015, Switzerland.
E-mail: shann.yu{at}epfl.ch

Publications are the key parameters for assessing young scientists. During their training phase, they need to learn literature searches, find research questions or problems, design a study (i.e., decide how to answer the research question), and of course learn hands-on techniques for the experiments. Analyzing and interpreting the results is a key part of the process. Building a story based on the data output and publicizing it to the scientific community is the final phase of training. Hence, this is the end-product, closing the circle. If a young scientist has a sufficient training background, it would be reflected by high-quality publications in good journals. If the work is of high quality, the scientific community is likely to acknowledge with citations. If there are citations, the impact factors are likely to rise. Therefore, the impact factor of the journals and number of publications from young scientist may not the best and ultimate criteria but it seems close enough at the moment. Feedback (recommendations) from the supervisors and also from the lab team members is also key to know the person as a complete scientist.
Matiram Pun
EURAC Institute of Mountain Emergency Medicine, European Academy of Bolzano, Bozen, 39100, Italy.
E-mail: matiram.pun{at}eurac.edu

Although no one factor can quantify the "value" of a scientist, publications are a crucial part of the job. If a scientist cannot communicate through writing, even the most groundbreaking of research will have no impact. Young scientists should also be held to this standard. Be it for a job, grant, or award, young scientists need to be able to convey their results so others can learn and benefit. The number and impact of one's publications can therefore differentiate those who have great ideas from those who are able to influence the scientific community with those great ideas.
Catherine Y. Li
Vagelos Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: catli{at}sas.upenn.edu

Online Essays

Numbers are not enough. For an early-career scientist, maybe the publication's impact is high but he didn't substantively participate in the research, or maybe the publication has no impact but he did his best work. Beside publications, one should consider the qualifications provided compared with the results he produced. He could be evaluated through a test including two problems he has to solve—one in his specific field of study and the other in his general field of study—and a questionnaire about how he faced his research problems and what he has learned from his research.
Basant A. Ali
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Alexandria University, Alexandria, El-Montaza, 21611, Egypt.
E-mail: basant_walieldeen{at}alex-sci.edu.eg
chemo_astrsci{at}ovi.com

The ability of a scientist to successfully weave a narrative from the few or many papers s/he has published, regardless of impact, will lead to the most meaningful evaluation. Ideally, it would be one page. The story would include direction for a future career and provide an opportunity to demonstrate creativity and independence. There's no need to hire aimless clones of a supervisor to do the same science. Sadly, this is something pedigree and publishing in glamour journals does to reduce applicant pools to one "type" of person. This kills diversity in more ways than one.
Sebastian Gaston Alvarado
Department of Biology, Stanford University, Santa Clara, CA 95051, USA.
E-mail: Salvarad{at}stanford.edu
Sebastian.g.alvarado{at}gmail.com

As scientists know, numerical measurements and analysis thereof are useful to get closer to what is true, but can only define a complex system if many parameters are taken into account. Let's not pretend that we as young scientists are anything but a complex system. Therefore, attempting to define us by a single parameter is both lazy and will lead to a loss of potential and squandering of money. Publications are one parameter—not useless, but probably not even the most telling parameter.
Louis S. Ates
VUMC Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
E-mail: Louis.ates{at}gmail.com

As with any metric in science, publications must be interpreted correctly to have any meaning. To discern the true value of an early-career scientist, we must identify key traits of a successful investigator. Multiple first-authorships demonstrate consistent ability to lead and execute studies, but supplementing with a few middle-authorships shows regard for a healthy publication pipeline. Although reading the content of a paper is the best way to determine its importance and quality, impact factor is a strong correlate of those traits and may be useful for those in a different field.
Alfred C. Chin
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.
E-mail: achin14{at}jhu.edu

The only valid evaluation of young scientists is that of their peers and mentors. An excellent scientist may take years to publish, but their colleagues will know if they are any good. A robust reference system would be better than publication metrics. Even a multiple-choice, scored reference system would be better. For example, five or more referees in the field could be required to score candidates in several areas of expertise.
Timothy L. Easun
School of Chemistry, Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3AT, UK.
E-mail: EasunTL{at}cardiff.ac.uk
teasun{at}hotmail.com

Early publications often reflect the renown of the PI of the lab. I believe that a way to reveal the capacity and cleverness of a young scientist would be to measure how much his personal work changed the research line of the group. Another relevant element is how the new scientist can extend the research network by creating new contacts. I would suggest creating a score of innovation and autonomy to add to the citation index for scientists under age 35.
Giuseppe Ferrillo
Federico II University, Naples, Italy.
E-mail: giosepherrillo{at}gmail.com
lassaruce{at}hotmail.it

Some may suggest that the quantity of publications in high-impact journals instead of a publication's quality opens a gateway to opportunity—research funding, tenure, and science expert status. This view is grounded in faulty thinking because politics, the competitive culture of science, and limited resources can hinder a scientist's ability to publish. A scientist's true value and spirit lie in the sophistication and creativity of how he or she probes a question scientifically, the effective communication of his or her science, and the level of influence his or her research has in advancing our betterment and understanding of life.
Joyonna Carrie Gamble-George
Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37203, USA.
E-mail: joyonna.c.gamble-george{at}vanderbilt.edu
jgamblegeorge{at}gmail.com

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "publish" is a transitive verb, the definition of which is "to print in a book or journal so as to make it generally known." However, according to any contemporary scientist, the word "publish" is a transitive verb that transits an individual from obscurity to recognition. This discrepancy originates from the incapability of scientific committees to judge fellow scientists, and their reliance instead on an ambiguous metric. Young scientists should be evaluated based on real virtues that can arguably advance science, such as passion for science, intelligence, out-of-the-box thinking, honesty/integrity, creativity, reliability, ambition, persistence, and idealism.
Nikolaos Konstantinides
Department of Biology, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.
E-mail: nk1845{at}nyu.edu

Science is increasingly collaborative and data-driven. Traditional publications no longer present the only avenue for knowledge dissemination. Reusable data sets and research tools often make important contributions to research beyond the initial manuscript. Unfortunately, open data and resource sharing is sometimes disincentivized by the lack of recognition and an over-fixation on publication impact factors. To cultivate a more open research culture among young scientists, we must give equal credits to data and resource dissemination, such as on FigShare, Synapse, Bioconductor, and other platforms.
Edward Lau
NIH BD2K Center of Excellence in Biomedical Computing, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
E-mail: edwardlau{at}ucla.edu
edward.lau{at}me.com

Scientists are often judged by their h index, but an early scientist's merit should not be entirely based on how many papers he or she has. Reviewers like papers that show positive results suggesting an expected correlation. But negative results and experiments that fail to show an expected correlation or causation are just as important as the positive ones published. A young scientist may be asking the wrong question, or approaching it in a way such that the results won't produce a paper that will cause a huge stir and confirm a popular theory. Therefore it won't be published. This does not decrease the scientist's value or ability to produce important results in the rest of his or her career. Young scientists should be judged on their creativity and their ability to think of important questions in their field and how to approach them; whether it yields the expected result or not is less important in judging their merit, but overly stressed in their chance of publication.
Abigail Alix Lemmon
Vagelos Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: alemmon{at}sas.upenn.edu
abigaillemmon{at}icloud.com

The true value of an early-career scientist could be a function of accomplishments and potential. Measures of success include, but are not limited to, quality and quantity of contribution. If we plot contribution over time, we can integrate to obtain accomplishments, and differentiate to obtain potential. The time horizon for evaluation becomes critical. Besides, what if the growth is highly nonlinear? What if there is a long "dormant" period before "volcanic eruption" of productivity? What if one's ideas are ahead of one's time? Publications as the sole measure, especially over a short period of time, may mistakenly kill geniuses.
Ting Lin
Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI 53233, USA.
E-mail: ting.lin{at}marquette.edu
tinglin{at}stanford.edu

The true nature of science is much more than the result of scientific publications, but rather a network of collaborations and knowledge aiming to make new discoveries to better understand our living world and improve the evolution of human beings. Although publications are important to define research outcomes of an early-career scientist, the ability to work in collaboration, lead a team of people, and share knowledge through teaching and conference talks, is essential to the value of any scientist. Unfortunately, such values are being left aside when emphasis is put on publications.
Pierre Mariotte
Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, The University of Sydney, Camden, NSW, 2570, Australia.
E-mail: pierre.mariotte{at}hotmail.com
pierre.mariotte{at}sydney.edu.au

I suggest using the Research, Communication, and Achievements (RCA) index as a new tool for evaluating young scientists.  The RCA index adds one point for each of the following: first-author publication, 100 overall citations, writing or video for communicating or advocating science to peers or the public, conference presentation, scholarship, or award. The RCA index reflects the true value of skillful, interactive, visionary, and leading young scientists.
Islam M. Mosa
Department of Chemistry, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06268, USA.
E-mail: Islam.mosa{at}uconn.edu
islam.mosa{at}science.tanta.edu.eg

Publications are certainly important, but a junior scientist needs to be evaluated on more. A well-rounded early-career scientist also needs to develop other qualifications, such as teaching, grant writing, mentoring, serving on committees, organizing workshops, leadership, and public outreach. Although publication data is easily accessible and comparable, it is only one part of a scientist's qualifications. An evaluation portfolio should include all three branches of the academic mission (research, teaching, and service), and (if applicable) patents and start-ups.
Beat Adrian Schwendimann
School of Computer and Communication Sciences, EPFL, Lausanne, 1015, Switzerland.
E-mail: beat.schwendimann{at}epfl.ch

Although publications may be an easy method to objectively differentiate young scientists, it may neglect those individuals who are focusing on quality rather than quantity. Many scientists attempt to "game the system" by the volume of their work; however, few if any of these contributions will be meaningful. The initial question may be left behind for an inferior, but more publishable study. Ask the tough questions and stick with it.
Eellan Sivanesan
Department of Anesthesiology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33131, USA.
E-mail: Eellansivanesan{at}gmail.com

With scientific exploration becoming more and more capital- and labor-intensive, access to big labs and financially well-established institutions dictate, for the most part, whether one is part of a successful and impact-generating publication record. Young scientists from developing economies and less-established institutions are at a distinct disadvantage, even when they are motivated and talented enough. Reductionistic metrics such as publication record only exacerbate such inequalities. This warrants a more personal and local evaluation to estimate the "value" of a young scientist, but volume of supply—applicants—stand in the way. Creation of a multidimensional metric that takes into account abilities needed for the scientific enterprise, such as creativity, communication and teaching skills, social relevance, and historical factors influencing the candidate's career path would democratize the scientific world, and might reflect the true "value" of a candidate. In short, instead of measuring the past output, measure the factors that would influence the future output, however difficult that is.
Hemachander Subramanian
Integrated Mathematical Oncology, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL 33612, USA.
E-mail: hemachander{at}gmail.com
hemachander.subramanian{at}moffitt.org

The "Publish or Perish" aphorism exists for two important reasons: as a warning and as motivation. Publication proves perseverance, the willingness to be evaluated by scientific peers worldwide, and dedication to finishing what one starts. While quantity isn't important—you don't need 20 first-author papers to be employable—early-career scientists should strive for at least one published work every 2 years. Impact factors, though imperfect, serve as useful comparisons of journal quality; by my rubric, one high-impact paper equals a handful in lower-impact journals.
Michael A. Tarselli
NIBR Informatics, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
E-mail: tarselli{at}gmail.com
mike.tarselli{at}novartis.com

Publications to early-career chemists are like impact factors for journals—easy to see, but sometimes unintentionally misleading. Many factors influence a young scientist's productivity, including the adviser, project scope, publication review speed, and collaborators. The pressure to publish often forces other areas to suffer. Teaching experience, writing skills, presentation quality, and work-life balance suffer in the "publish or perish" environment. Although churning publications is good for bolstering the CV, young scientists ought to be evaluated on other communication skills. Presentation skills, teaching, and communicating with the general public are essential for improving the role of science in society.
Rachel Yoho
Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.
E-mail: ryoho{at}asu.edu
rachel.a.yoho{at}gmail.com

Publication and citation numbers completely disregard young scientists' research potential, mentorship, leadership, and lab management skills. To better account for the true value of early-stage investigators, we could redesign the 360-degree evaluation used in many industries. In this new assessment, we evaluate young scientists' research quantity and quality, mentorship competence, and teaching proficiency, as well as communication and management skills, through tailored questionnaires filled out by their colleagues, collaborators, mentees, and supervisors. The 360-degree evaluation not only assesses early-career scientists but also provides them with valuable feedback, which will assist them to become their best selves. 
Kun-Hsing Yu
Biomedical Informatics Training Program, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
E-mail: khyu{at}stanford.edu
kunhsingyu{at}gmail.com