In DepthBehind the Numbers

Data Check: Critics challenge NIH finding that bigger labs aren't necessarily better

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Science  09 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6342, pp. 997
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6342.997

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  • Weighted relative citation ratio means the research success ?

    Jocelyn Kaiser described that NIH has a new research productivity measurement based on weighted relative citation ratio (1). John P.A. et al., mentioned that review articles receive more citations than articles with new empirical data (2). Editorial also states that reviews receive higher citations than original research papers (3). Authors like citing review paper because they offer a way to cite a single paper to support multiple statements (4). It’s also easier to locate a recent review paper than to find the originals which might be quite old (4). This is why review papers are often highly cited (4). However, is this fair? The review paper authors may not have contributed anything to the discoveries they summarized, yet they end up getting (some of) the credit for them (4). Derek Lowe also stated that great papers that have been rejected (5). NIH should change their minds on how to evaluate successful research, not by quantitative tools including weighted relative citation ratio, but by qualitative tools including survey and interview.

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser, Critics challenge NIH finding that bigger labs aren’t necessarily better, Science 356 (6342), 997, 2017
    2. John P.A. et al., Citation Metrics: A Primer on How (Not) to Normalize, PLOS biology, September 6, 2016
    3. Citatio...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • No Exponential Increase with Lab Size

    If there were an exponential improvement with increase in grant dollars, then the present system might perhaps be justified. A linear increase indicates spreading the funds around would be OK. A ceiling on improvement, as most studies suggest, indicates that many modern diseases would today be cured had the spreading been more liberal in past decades.!

    Bruce Alberts pointed this all out in the 1980s. He had probably read Erwin Chargaff's "In Praise of Smallness" (see " PRAISE OF SMALLNESS"). Although difficult to precisely quantify, numerical evidence was made available by David Currie as the "Law of Diminishing Returns" in the Canadian publication University Affairs (Jan 2010; pp. 26-27) and in Nature (2009; 461, 1198).

    Apart from these, there were many working for the reforms that Chargaff's arguments suggested. My own proposal - "Bicameral Review" - was presented in University Affairs and elsewhere, to no avail. Anyone who has read both Thomas Soderqvist's biography of Niels Jerne, and the "The Network Collective" by Klaus Eichmann (2008), can readily see that, time and again, the "Trumps" of science win out over the scientific "Clintons." Now, at last, there seems to be a chink of light at the end of the tunnel!

    Competing Interests: None declared.

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