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 11.01.2011   Карта сайта     Language По-русски По-английски
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11.01.2011

Citation bubble about to burst?




Journal name:

Nature

Volume:

469,

Page:

34

Date published:

(06 January 2011)

DOI:

doi:10.1038/469034b


Published online











University rankings would be more informative if they took into account graduates' contributions to a country's international economic competitiveness. Although institutes in the United States and the United Kingdom currently top the university rankings, the most successful technology-based export industries are dominated by northern and central Europe, as well as by Asian city states — the per-capita exports of which are also several times higher.


Rankings are heavily influenced by citations, but these represent little more than symbols. They are comparable to the less-than-worthless collateralized debt obligations that drove the recent financial bubble, and, unlike concrete goods and real exports, they are easy to print and inflate.


Financial deregulation led to short-term incentives for bankers and rating agencies to overvalue their collateralized debt obligations, bringing down entire economies. Likewise, today's academic rankings provide an incentive for professors to maximize citation counts instead of scientific progress (by coincidence, both types of incentive were invented in the United States). We may already be in the middle of a citation bubble — witness how relatively unknown scientists can now collect more citations than the most influential founders of their fields.


It may be easier to collect citation indices than employment histories and other statistics about the impact of graduates on industry, but modifying rankings to take these into account would be worth the effort, particularly for institutes and countries that are currently traded below value.


Note that I write from the country with the most citations per capita and per scientist.






Author information




Affiliations




  1. Istituto Dalle Molle di Studi sull'Intelligenza Artificiale (IDSIA) and University of Lugano, Switzerland. juergen@idsia.ch



    • Jürgen Schmidhuber











Comments






  1. Report this comment #17229



    Pratik Desai said:


    There is one overwhelming factor favoring citation counts: ease of calculation. People calculate and use them because that's what they can do. Citation counts are highly imperfect measures of value and impact, but people do what is easy and what is possible. Unless one can come up with a better alternative formula that does not require manual intervention, the domination of citation indices will continue.





  2. Report this comment #17248



    Elangannan Arunan said:


    I am reminded of a story. One person is searching for something near a lamp post. He had lost something valuable somewhere else. His reasoning for searching below the lamp post was simple: that is where light is. Searching for talent using citation index is similar to this. It is easier to get citation index, though it does not matter if it is unrelated to talent :-)





  3. Report this comment #17258



    Georgi Marinov said:


    I find the trend towards evaluating research output solely on the basis of its contribution to economic development extremely troubling. The goal of science is not to generate economic growth, it is to advance our understanding of the world around us. We need that advanced understanding so that we can make better informed decisions and so that we can better manipulate our physical surroundings. The latter often includes inventions that indeed drive economic growth, but this is a side effect, not the main objective of doing science. In fact, the improved understanding of the natural world that we have achieved through science has made it very clear that further pursuing economic growth is not advisable as it forces us directly into global ecological catastrophe.


    While far from a perfect metric, citations at least have some correlation to what in the literature influences the thinking of other researchers and therefore the advancement of knowledge. Equating "usefulness" of research with its direct applicability and its economic returns is anti-intellectualism at its worst and is very dangerous for society in the long term, if such attitude becomes even more dominant than it currently is.






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