Quantity vs Quality in Science

This nice paper “Academia's obsession with quantity” http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(12)00125-5 touched a nerve for me. Two excerpts:

• “The modern mantra of quantity is taking a heavy toll on two prerequisites for generating wisdom: creativity and reflection. ”

• “… academic leaders have a responsibility to help society move towards a better future, where we understand the world better, and use that understanding to live a ‘good life’. However, how can we do this if our professional rat race just mirrors the ills of society at large?”

Clearly we are under multiple pressures as scientists, exemplified in being simmered down to a single number (impact factor, h-index; ok, that's two numbers) by administration and government. This results in blinkered “excellence” initiatives, our own increasing boasting style


and poor reproducibility (occasionally nearly down to 10%!)


The reproducibility initiative http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/08/scientific-reproducibility-for-fun-and-profit/ seems just the thing we need. Further, scientific progress needs a pyramid of achievements – if you take away the base of a pyramid (your common-or-garden scientist) the top cannot rest in thin air – so I'm not totally dissatisfied ;-) with my middling place in that hierarchy with an h-index of 36 (sic!). Consequently I agree that we should consider “Slow Science” http://blogs.unbc.ca/huber/2012/08/16/slow-science/ as a generalization of http://www.slowfood.com resulting in better quality, if lower quantity. But this may just be my age – I do understand that young budding scientists bear the full grunt of career pressure. Still – “generating wisdom” is the one achievement persistent in the long run. And examples cited above make me happy, indicating there's a growing number of colleagues realizing this.

Ok, enough ranting, I actually have work to do, revising a paper, administrative stuff, …

PS: the image below is a screen shot from https://www.scienceexchange.com/reproducibility , following John Timmer's example in ars technica.