Stakhanovism resurgent

A recent article in the Communications of the ACM discusses the use of numerical metrics to assess computer science researchers. I particularly enjoyed the following:

Measures should not address volume but impact. Publication counts only assess activity. Giving them any other value encourages "write-only" journals, speakers-only conferences, and Stakhanovist research profiles favoring quantity over quality.

Speakers-only conferences is no exaggeration; I've been to one conference at which even the speakers didn't turn up.

I recommend the article to people interested in how CS academics are and should be assessed -- a category of readers that should include CS academics themselves! The authors delineate the ways in which publication practices in computer science differ from those in other scientific fields. They are particularly scathing about the use of ISI Web of Science as a publication metric for CS. Their attack merits reading in full; I'll excerpt its culmination:

ISI's "highly cited researchers" list includes many prestigious computer scientists but leaves out such iconic names as Wirth, Parnas, Knuth and all the 10 2000–2006 Turing Award winners except one.

and conclusion:

In assessing publications and citations, ISI Web of Science is inadequate for most of CS and must not be used. Alternatives include Google Scholar, CiteSeer, and (potentially) ACM's Digital Library.

Unfortunately, the article is only available to individual or institutional ACM subscribers -- doubly regrettable, in that the article is attempting to make CS's case to a wider audience. ACM needs to be more adroit in its use of the internet as a medium of communication.

One Response to “Stakhanovism resurgent”

  1. [...] You may consider reviewing less and write more journal papers instead. I guess that having a Stakhanovist research profile (see the corresponding ACM articles) is a virtue after all. Panos also has an interesting proposal [...]

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