Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Alternative" products of research gaining recognition

The US National Science Foundation is changing the way they evaluate scientists, writes Nature.
What a difference a word makes. For all new grant applications from 14 January, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) asks a principal investigator to list his or her research “products” rather than “publications” in the biographical sketch section. This means that, according to the NSF, a scientist's worth is not dependent solely on publications. Data sets, software and other non-traditional research products will count too.
This is great news for anyone concerned about how credit accrues to academics, for good reasons or poor ones.  Don't despair, credit won't be given to anyone for anything, and the usefulness of academic contributions must still be measurable:
The new NSF policy states: “Acceptable products must be citable and accessible including but not limited to publications, data sets, software, patents, and copyrights.”
The new framework better recognizes people that are good at making "infrastructural" contributions to the research community: those that create high quality data that others use; wet lab tools or constructs that are usually shared (and end up with only an acknowledgement); bioinformatic tools that aren't in a major piece of software (again, probably only acknowledged).

See the original story at Nature (Subscription required).