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Re: Research Illusion

From: Dave Reynolds <der@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
Date: Sun, 10 May 2009 20:34:59 +0100
Message-ID: <4A072C63.8090807@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
To: Jeremy Carroll <jeremy@topquadrant.com>
CC: 'SW-forum' <semantic-web@w3.org>
Jeremy Carroll wrote:
> Google scholar provides citation counts, which while still a fairly rough measure, does include an idea of the importance of any piece of work.

Within a sufficiently narrow field, if the statistics are only applied 
after a sufficient time, that may be true. However, in application to 
academic ranking it can be misused to compare researchers working in 
different communities with different sizes and publication rates. 
Background citation rates can vary wildly between domains and in some 
domains it may be 10 years or more before you know the impact of the 

Even within a community citation statistics are limited and often 
misunderstood. For an analysis of this see:


> In particular citation counts can be high for a good piece of research engineering and one paper about it. (Jena follows this model). This certainly helped with my US Visa application (they look at citation counts).
> Jeremy
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: semantic-web-request@w3.org [mailto:semantic-web-request@w3.org]
>> On Behalf Of Azamat
>> Sent: Friday, May 08, 2009 10:20 AM
>> To: [ontolog-forum] ; 'SW-forum'
>> Cc: mjarrar@cs.ucy.ac.cy
>> Subject: Research Illusion
>> By chance, i encountered Mustafa Jarrar's blog site,
>> http://mjarrar.blogspot.com/; http://www.jarrar.info/, making  ontology
>> engineering, Linked-data, web 3.0, somewhere here on the island. Never
>> heard
>> of him, but it is a true mind full of true thoughts.
>> Here is a shockingly telling extract (for me at least as i left the
>> Academy
>> long time ago)::
>> [Communications of the ACM
>> Volume 50, Number 11 (2007), Pages 19-21
>> Viewpoint: Stop the numbers game
>> David Lorge Parnas
>> As a senior researcher, I am saddened to see funding agencies,
>> department
>> heads, deans, and promotion committees encouraging younger researchers
>> to do
>> shallow research. As a reader of what should be serious scientific
>> journals,
>> I am annoyed to see the computer science literature being polluted by
>> more
>> and more papers of less and less scientific value. As one who has often
>> served as an editor or referee, I am offended by discussions that imply
>> that
>> the journal is there to serve the authors rather than the readers.
>> Other
>> readers of scientific journals should be similarly outraged and demand
>> change.
>> The cause of all of these manifestations is the widespread policy of
>> measuring researchers by the number of papers they publish, rather than
>> by
>> the correctness, importance, real novelty, or relevance of their
>> contributions. The widespread practice of counting publications without
>> reading and judging them is fundamentally flawed for a number of
>> reasons:
>> * It encourages superficial research. Those who publish many hastily
>> written, shallow (and often incorrect) papers will rank higher than
>> those
>> who invest years of careful work studying important problems; that is,
>> counting measures quantity rather than quality or value;
>> * It encourages overly large groups. Academics with large groups, who
>> often
>> spend little time with each student but put their name on all of their
>> students' papers, will rank above those who work intensively with a few
>> students;
>> * It encourages repetition. Researchers who apply the "copy, paste,
>> disguise" paradigm to publish the same ideas in many conferences and
>> journals will score higher than those who write only when they have new
>> ideas or results to report;
>> * It encourages small, insignificant studies. Those who publish
>> "empirical
>> studies" based on brief observations of three or four students will
>> rank
>> higher than those who conduct long-term, carefully controlled
>> experiments;
>> and
>> * It rewards publication of half-baked ideas. Researchers who describe
>> languages and systems but do not actually build and use them will rank
>> higher than those who implement and experiment.
>> Paper-count-based ranking schemes are often defended as "objective."
>> They
>> are also less time-consuming and less expensive than procedures that
>> involve
>> careful reading. Unfortunately, an objective measure of contribution is
>> frequently contribution-independent....]
>> Another reason for building Common Ontology Standards: to establish a
>> safe
>> conceptual filtering of all sorts of research head games in critical
>> knowledge fields and publicly-funded research projects.
>> Azamat Abdoullaev
>> http://www.eis.com.cy
Received on Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:35:46 UTC

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