The measure of research merit

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Science  05 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6214, pp. 1155
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3796


Each year, $1.4 trillion are invested in research by governments, foundations, and corporations. Hundreds if not thousands of high-profile prizes and medals are awarded to the best researchers, boosting their careers. Therefore, establishing a reliable predictor of future performance is a trillion-dollar matter. Last month, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation convened an international assembly of leaders in academia, research management, and policy to discuss “Beyond Bibliometrics: Identifying the Best.” Current assessment is largely based on counting publications, counting citations, taking note of the impact factor of the journals where researchers publish, and derivatives of these such as the h-index. These approaches were severely criticized for numerous reasons, with shortcomings particularly apparent when assessing young scientists for prestigious, interdisciplinary awards. It is time to develop more appropriate measures and to use the scientific method itself to help in this endeavor.

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