Peter Gluckman: The changing culture of science

The Prime Minster’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman reflects on the forces of change in the world of science – from the shifting priorities of publically-funded science to the impact of the internet and social media, in this essay The Changing Culture of Science.

The essay can be read in full here.

Some excerpts:

On the rise of the “Impact Agenda”

“Most academics are accustomed to viewing their productivity almost entirely in terms of publications (because that is what university administrators and peers use to evaluate one another). Yet for policy makers, these measures of output are of limited value – what they need are measures of impact and this turns out to be a major challenge that many jurisdictions are grappling with.”

On the tertiary education sector’s identity crisis.

“As academic researchers get closer to the more utilitarian and applied research sector, several other tensions emerge. The academic CV becomes less meaningful. For instance: how to assess an academic who is heavily invested in applied research and development in areas that may not produce traditional publications; How to assess the social science academic heavily involved in policy formation; How to encourage a greater rapprochement between ‘applied’ and ‘discovery’ endeavours in academic research, without jeopardising the value and intent of either?”

On the impact of the internet and social media.

“Emerging methods of analysis based on publication metadata (altmetrics) can now take into account not just paper citations but also references in databases, online views, downloads and social media mentions.  However, these metrics are not without criticism, when social media mentions can be bought and self-downloads cannot be monitored.  Are we just replacing one pseudo-objective measure with another?  And what of assessing the quality of the published (or self-published) research?”