Will changing how science is measured change what science produces?

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Author unknown, image from Altmetrics: a manifesto.
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I have written previously that the definition of  success will deeply influence the outcome of the project. When looking at innovation projects as a system, I believe that the design criteria are the greatest place to intervene and inform the overall flow of creative thinking. When you look at a project through the lens of evolution, the design criteria are the selective pressures that shape how organisms adapt to their contextual conditions. It’s all biomimicry… of course.

In Nature, there was an incredible Comment article by Heather Piwowar titled “Value all research products” which discussed the emergence of different measures of success in scientific research. These “altmetrics” are simply:

New ways to measure engagement with research output.

Basically, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is now measuring researchers on content beyond papers. This means that data sets, or engagement in online research forums will now be taken into account when determining the success of a given researcher and whether they should receive further funding. This new selective pressure could deeply influence the shift towards open information, alternative research models and increased collaboration.

There is a “manifesto” outlining the details behind altmetrics which discusses the bottle necks currently occurring in the status quo of peer reviewed journals and how new metrics will not just alter the content being produced, but how it gets validated and shared. One of their interesting statements is around the opportunity of speeding up information exchange:

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