The impact factor no longer carries impact for Utrecht University

Chris Woolston for Nature:

A Dutch university says it is formally abandoning the impact factor — a standard measure of scientific success — in all hiring and promotion decisions. By early 2022, every department at Utrecht University in the Netherlands will judge its scholars by other standards, including their commitment to teamwork and their efforts to promote open science, says Paul Boselie, a governance researcher and the project leader for the university’s new Recognition and Rewards scheme. “Impact factors don’t really reflect the quality of an individual researcher or academic,” he says. “We have a strong belief that something has to change, and abandoning the impact factor is one of those changes.”

(emphasis mine)

Here’s a scenario. The impact factor includes citation of your work by other publications. Citations and “h-index” points towards a commodification of science. Let’s say a scientist can publish the work in a name journal; what’s going to stop his/her lab from citing the same work in some way or other in others? I think it is a significant step forward to break the rut and hopefully they will attract good talent.

Disclosures apply – I have actually explored working there for either a fellowship or a doctor’s degree. However, it didn’t work out – they didn’t respond to the cold emails sent over the years. I find their focus on fundamentals admirable. It is far cry from the noise around “breakthroughs” elsewhere on the planet, which account for nothing. I don’t even remember the presentations, I sat through in the conferences.

This is an interesting nugget:

On a practical level, evaluating researchers on qualities beyond easy-to-measure metrics can be messy and complicated. “It’s going to be quite challenging to apply,” Boselie says. He explains that each department will have to develop its own systems and strategies to identify researchers and academics who are making the most meaningful contributions to their fields. The process might involve interviews with other researchers in a given field, he says. “There are alternative ways to evaluate individuals on their quality.”

I hope it becomes codified by universities to avoid the mess of citation indices.

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