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March Metrics! The First Annual World Championship for Scientific Impact


This is a guest post by Llewellyn Cox, Program Administrator for Research at the USC School of Pharmacy, and Founder of Research2.0. (full bio below).

Competition is the fuel that drives innovation. Without competition to drive evolution in nature, species retreat into genetic cul-de-sacs, leaving them vulnerable to ecological shifts and invasive species. In business, a lack of competition causes organizations to become bloated, inefficient bureaucracies that suffer from increasingly diminished returns. Without competition, career progress is arbitrary and unsatisfying, and sport is merely exercise.

In the academic world, there is apparent competition for career opportunities as many young scientists chase a small number of grants and faculty jobs, yet the metrics that are used to decide their fate are either narrow and inadequate for measuring the full impact of the researcher, or more often are unscientific and qualitative, relying on such arbitrary and superficial measures as the prestige of their mentor, and reputation among their equally arbitrarily-designated ‘peers’. Clearly, there is a space for more rigorous, holistic measures of scientific productivity and impact.

Since the day I first walked onto a US academic campus, I have heard a familiar refrain from academics, “if only our University treated our Star Students as well as the Football Team!”  It is true that elite college athletes enjoy myriad benefits, from generous scholarships and flexible class schedules, to prestige among the student body and a prominent role in the marketing of their alma mater to future generations. However, this esteem must be earned through fair competition; the reputation of individual college athletic programs is directly related to their measurable performance on the field of play. Indeed, if NCAA Football operated on the same logic as academic appointment and promotion, my own USC Trojans would still be the #1 ranked team in the country, rather than a 7-6 flop in 2012.

At the USC School of Pharmacy, we launched the Research2.0 initiative in 2012 to change the outlook of academic research: we believe that a more open and dynamic research economy should be supported by academic hubs of excellence in a rigorous and data-driven manner. In this context, how we measure research output and performance should also be a quantifiable exercise that reflects multiple aspects of productivity – from the production of data, to success in attaining funding necessary to perform research, and the communication of research discoveries resulting from the work.

We are therefore pleased to introduce the First Scientific World Championship that measures a broad range of research metrics to find out who really are the most productive scientists: March Metrics!

Are you the Most Impactful Scientist in America (or the World)?

For one month, the USC School of Pharmacy will collect March Metrics data to determine which of our students and postdocs creates the most impact in the area of scientific research, and you too can play along!

You can check out the competition rules and scoring system here, and submit your self-score and supporting data here (you will only need a URL or doi for each “score claim”). At the end of March, we will publicly post the submitted data on Figshare so that the crowd can audit your submissions, so no cheating!  Please invite your colleagues, trainees and friends to join in the March Metrics fun – if enough people play March Metrics in 2013, we will be able to refine and expand the metrics for future years, and maybe even attract some sponsorship so that we will be able to offer some fabulous prizes and publicity for future winners. Above all, let’s have some fun!

Llewellyn Cox is the Program Administrator for Research at the USC School of Pharmacy, as well as Founder and Organizer of Research2.0, a community initiative to promote a more efficient, robust and rapid research network, and to engage academia with startup culture. Once upon a time, Dr Cox received his PhD in cell/molecular biology in Cardiff, UK before moving to New York to perform postdoctoral research in neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College. Follow Llewellyn on Twitter @LlewellynCox.


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