Quantifying the Social Impact of Science

American Professor Julia Lane visited Canberra in May to talk about how to quantify the social impact of science, and be publicly accountable for scientific output. She says:

“This is not my problem, it’s our problem. It’s a global science challenge. What worries me is that what you measure is what you get. If you count publications, then you’re going to get a million publications. It’s like in the Stalinist system – when you had a quota system and you had to produce nails by weight, you got one big nail. If you had a quota system of nails by quantity, you got thousands of tiny little nails. In the capitalist system, if you go to the hardware store, you get a whole wide range of nails. I think we have to respond to the taxpayer request that we document the results of science investments, but we have to be able to do it in a way that preserves and fosters the integrity of science. That’s what science agencies ought to be focusing on.”

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