Monday, January 13, 2014

Impact Factor points to graduate?

Thanks to A. Maureen Rouhi's editorial on impact factors in this week's C&EN, I've been made aware of the policy of Professor David Lou of Nanyang Technological University and how his students graduate from his group:


Obviously, I think this is a strange sort of way of deciding if a student has been productive enough to graduate. That said, I have to comment Professor Lou for honesty, at the very least. I'm sure lots of professors have informal policies that they'd very unwilling to write down anywhere, much less one's group webpage.

I also liked this little tidbit from his site:

Note: Please don’t contact me if you are not truly passionate about this type of research, or if you just treat the position as a job.  

Well, okay, then. 

15 comments:

  1. I think a consequence of this "requirement" is that on Google scholar of the Chinese authors I am linked to, not one has not edited their publication record to exclude the ones they did not contribute to but but whom they have a same name. You can tell this is going on when you see a personal list that has say publications on cancer research, astronomy and geology at the same time.

    The literature will be made up of more and more garbage, with these stupid incentives.

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    1. Agree. Some projects or fields are easy publishing than others.

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  2. The type of environment where there is differentiation even between 2nd, 3rd, or "lesser" authors seems like it would be corrosive to a group over the long term. It's particularly limiting in the fact that getting into high impact factor journals (Nature/Science) almost requires collaborative work across disciplines. I can only imagine the fights that ensue over authorship.

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  3. Well, they made NTU into one of the top departments in a short amount of time by hiring people with that type of attitude, so it worked. It might be bad idea in the long run to only focus on impact factors, as being passionate about research not mean your shoot for one Andjewandte per year and forget about anything else besides that rather limited goal, but for now the goal is to make NTU chemistry into a top 30 worldwide program and this will probably do it.

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  4. One of the truly stupidest things I have come across. I would not have graduated under this system. Yet, I am now a faculty member and as a postdoc I published over ten articles, most over IF 10, including two first-author top-tier manuscripts (one CNS and another just below that). So much for his logic.

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  5. From John Spevacek (via e-mail):

    What a nightmare and in booking and otherwise. Suppose you think you've got the numbers, you just need an easy-to-get 0.254 IF points only to find out that when the new IF calculations come out, the IF's for one or more journals has now dropped and you need some extra points to make up for it. Or suppose it goes the other way, with the IF's suddenly rising, your star along too with it, even though it is the same research it always was, it's only someone else's article that has given it the extra shine.

    The idea isn't even good in principle. Does one lucky break suddenly qualify one for a degree more quickly than slogging it out without such a break?

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    1. "Does one lucky break suddenly qualify one for a degree more quickly than slogging it out without such a break?"

      Though this already happens in grad school, as it does in any job.

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  6. This sounds like something out of The Sims. Does he say how many simoleons the jobXXXadventure pays?

    And, if you're telling students that graduating's all about the numbers, then I'm curious where passion is supposed to enter into this, or good science. Sounds like someone's looking for students passionate about improving his career, and unless he's got a reality show, music career, or $1G in cash money, I'm not sure who the target audience is. Oh wait, yes I do..."Paging Dr. Sezen, paging Dr. Sezen...please come to the red courtesy phone."

    The advisor and NTU will probably make out until the retractions hit.

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  7. That's also Asian culture problem.

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  8. It somehow reflects clearly whats going on here in most of the places in Singapore, and what kind of expectations they have when they offer you a job (yet, don't think it as a job!)

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  9. My understanding is that even post-doc and junior lectureship positions in a number of East Asian countries are dependent on publishing a certain number of papers, with preference given to higher impact.

    In the UK, managers at Queen Mary's University, London, were making staff "redundant" if they didn't hit certain research metric targets (including publishing in high profile journals) http://www.labtimes.org/labtimes/issues/lt2012/lt04/lt_2012_04_20_24.pdf

    I'm also aware that applications to European Research Council fellowships are fully audited based upon IF and citation metrics.

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  10. Maybe it's just me but I kind of appreciate having a target to reach. At least you go in with your eyes open and can chart a path. If attheinterface is correct than even though impact factor is an imperfect measure it may be what a potential faculty member is being judged by.

    Someone help me out - how many Tet Lett papers is this?

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    1. I wonder if people are already starting to put their impact factors on their resumes.

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  11. Towards the start of grad school (after I committed to a lab), I was told I could graduate as soon as I was an author on 5 papers. Once the fifth was published, I was informed that I couldn't leave yet. "Letters count as half of a publication, besides you haven't been here long enough." I was SO angry. I think that goals like this aren't terrible, as long as they are announced before lab commitments are made and the PI holds up his end.

    That being said, I would really discourage using a quota system. I think it emphasizes speed and perceived impact above doing good science. It is also not fair for multi-disciplinary labs, since the difficulty of publication varies a lot from field to field.

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