[Taxacom] Declaration on Research Assessment

Neal Evenhuis neale at bishopmuseum.org
Wed Jun 12 16:50:28 CDT 2013


Les is sort of on the mark. We taxonomists write for posterity, not for the next 5 or 10 years.

But the metrics are not about who WE cite. They are about who cites US. Sars is dead. But you cited his 1895 work in a paper today. That unfortunately does his metric no good - unless the cemetery he is in had a contact to "upgrade" him if he got a lot of citations....

The problem with taxonomic work is that each paper is a reference that may not be used not that much in the short-run but is absolutely necessary when having to check original publications. The works that do get cited more often than others are syntheses of information such as catalogues and monographs. Single descriptive papers or those with a few species hardly get cited, revisions more often, monographs more, checklists and catalogs most.

That said, there have been ideas floated (I'm not sure if any actually do this) to have journals require every name cited in a paper to be put into the references. That will bump up the citations a bit, but for those ecologists who do, say, pollination visitor lists or other "lists", those long lists of names will result in very long and unwieldy literature cited sections -- and, to save space and money, journals will inevitably then welch on their "requirement" and ask the author to stop that silly behavior.

Administrators should just be aware that there is no citation metric that will ever show how important taxonomic work is -- it just is.

-Neal

On 6/12/13 11:25 AM, "Les Watling" <watling at hawaii.edu<mailto:watling at hawaii.edu>> scribbled the following tidbit:

Hi folks,

In my view the problem with all these metrics is that they take the
short view of science. Of course, for most research fields that is
fine, as information published 10 years ago has a high probability of
being out of date by now. Taxonomy, as we know, is very different. We
still use and cite papers published more than 100 years ago. There is
no citation index for those old things as far as I know. In fact, I
wonder what happens when the computer scans my paper and finds Sars,
G.O. 1895, in the references. Does it just throw that away? Assume its a typo?

So, I think taxonomists should invent a metric that includes the 4th
dimension... I always tell me department colleagues who are hot on
some metric to check back in 100 years to see if their paper or mine
is still being cited. I am sure the citation of most of the papers of
my colleagues will have diminished to nothing long before that, maybe
before they are retired...

We should feel good, we are working for posterity. And so we should
fight the popular science "altimetrics" as strongly as possible....

Best,
Les.


Les Watling
Professor and Graduate Chair
Department of Biology
2450 Campus Road, Dean Hall Rm 2
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, HI 96822

Office phone: 808-956-8621
Cell phone: 808-772-9563

Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation
Research Assoc. Yale Peabody Museum
Research Assoc. Bishop Museum


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