[I] want to address a point that I am personally concerned about. Scientific discoveries and breakthroughs are made by individuals. For this they need freedom, an atmosphere of congeniality, also luck. On the opposite side are - a rapidly increasing number of - programs that want to be measured by success, that want to measure success. A catalog of actions to measure quality is rolling towards us (and over us?). We all know performance-oriented assignment of grants, agreements on goals, judges for quality...The full speech (in German) is printed in the June 2012 issue of the membership magazine of the DPG (and is not open access). The president of the European Research Council recently expressed a similar sentiment.
Whom do they serve? Sure, by this one can increase quantitative indicators for quality, like the number of publications or grants, much like the milk output of a cow, we see this already. But is this the atmosphere that supports a scientist to enter new terrain? The result is unclear, full of set-backs.
In a recently published book about Bell Labs (by Jon Gertner), one can read: "in innovation as in hitting home runs in baseball you have to be willing to strike out a lot to be successfull."
Friday, June 08, 2012
Also against measure
The German Physical Society (Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, DPG) has a new president, Prof. Dr. Johanna Stachel from the University of Heidelberg, member of the ALICE collaboration. In her inaugural speech, she addressed the issue of the spreading measures for scientific success, which we discussed previously in my post "Against measure." Here is my (rough) translation of the respective part of her speech: