Nature snippets

  • Academics strike back at spurious rankings
    “Thomson Scientific’s ISI citation data are notoriously poor for use in rankings; names of institutions are spelled differently from one article to the next, and university affiliations are sometimes omitted altogether. After cleaning up ISI data on all UK papers for such effects, the Leeds-based consultancy Evidence Ltd, found the true number of papers from the University of Oxford, for example, to be 40% higher than listed by ISI, says director Jonathan Adams.”

    Someone explain to me: why do scientists willingly submit to assessment using the rubbish from ISI?

  • Complex set of RNAs found in simple green algae
    “A class of RNA molecule, called a microRNA, has been found in a unicellular green alga. The discovery, made independently by two labs, dismantles the popular theory that the regulatory role of microRNAs in gene expression is tied to the evolution of multicellularity.”

    Like I keep saying – it’s the biological process that’s important, not the organism. Why this constant surprise based on ill-founded notions of complexity?

  • Algae bloom again
    “A handful of pioneers are trying to bring algae-based biofuels back from a near-death experience.”

3 thoughts on “Nature snippets

  1. Bill

    Someone explain to me: why do scientists willingly submit to assessment using the rubbish from ISI?

    Ignorance; reflexive resistance to change; pre-occupation, to the point of rabid obsession, with their research; pre-occupation, etc, with all the infrastructural bullshit (like Impact Factors!!) — we get so caught up in the “game” (how I hate that metaphor) that we forget to step back and say, there must be a better way to do this.

    Open metrics will kill off the odious ISI eventually, but the process is taking a lot longer than it should.

  2. nsaunders Post author

    I find it all so puzzling. In our professional lives we demand rigour from data and methods – yet we put up with this nonsense. We all know that the current metrics are nothing more than a convenience for beaurocrats in government and funding agencies. As a community, why don’t we stand up and say “this is rubbish”? Is it because we suspect nobody cares? I mean, who’s going to notice if research scientists go on strike?

  3. Bill

    the current metrics are nothing more than a convenience for beaurocrats in government and funding agencies

    Well, in defense of the indefensible, hiring and granting decisions have to be made somehow, and the existing metrics have been the only ones available until recently. It’s perfectly reasonable to wish for objective ways to compare researchers with their peers, since the alternative is the death of a thousand committees. The problem is that wishing doesn’t make ISI metrics valid or useful, but they get pressed into service regardless. My hope is that the new metrics will take over from the useless ISI numbers as an adjunct to the committee work. The UK, for instance, is already moving to a metrics-based system.

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