quality v. quantity

SLF notmyaddress at hotmail.com
Fri Nov 17 13:56:19 EST 2000

> From: Kate Jeffery (k.jeffery at ucl.ac.uk)
> The problem is that over here, and I think it is true in the US too,
> productivity is measured in quantity not quality. Here they have a horrible
> thing called the Research Assessment Exercise, which grades universities
> (and their funding) according to how much their research staff publish.
> They look at number of publications and impact factors, among other things
> (like number and size of grants). It doesn't matter if you are publishing
> terrific complete studies that never have to be retracted and are quoted
> many times more often than most. If you aren't publishing as *many* things,
> or as many high-profile things in Science and Nature, you don't get hired.

Or promoted.  This obsession with the glossy journals is a problem everywhere!
Yet if you ask most scientists, while they desperately want to publish there,
they know they aren't fairly reviewed for science but for headlines.

> I think this is a real problem and one of the big reasons women aren't
> getting through to the top. I have watched a few of my male colleagues in
> action and they bully and bluster and argue their papers into Nature and
> Science when they really don't deserve to be there.

Here, we may get into the old "men are aggressive, women are bitches".  I
fight, but seldom successfully, only to see far weaker papers succeed.

> And the women rarely
> submit to those journals in the first place, reasoning that their studies
> aren't quite as watertight or as complete or as novel or whatever as they
> could be. The 72% vs 30% assessment of male and female self-worth probably
> translates pretty accurately into Nature and Science submission rates, I
> would bet.

And maybe success as well.  My experience with the glossier journals is
that you have to be in their club to be successful--if you are an outsider
(as most women are), the reviewers are more likely to keep you out with
subjective reasons about not being exciting enough.

> So what do we do? Teach women to bully and argue and raise their
> self-esteem, or teach the system to recognise quality not quantity? (Or both?)

I know there are SOME universities and SOME granting bodies that do not
allow you to submit all your papers for consideration.  For example, the
biosketch (investigator biography form) from the National Science
Foundation grant applications allows you to list only 10 research papers.

Perhaps we need to make this more uniform.

But instead we will just be told that things have always been that
way, and we should simply be grateful we have a chance to be ignored
by the system.

-susan, back in cynic's mode
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S L Forsburg, PhD  Associate Professor
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA

Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
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