Issue #1(15) 2018 Science

Publish or perish: the astronomer’s dilemma

Julia Heuritsch Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany

To try and answer this question I designed a project called ‘Insights into the Effects of Indicators on Knowledge Production in Astronomy’. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with international researchers from the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, one of the largest and most international astronomy departments in the world.

The interviewees were four faculty members, two post docs, one PhD and two Master’s students. The study (https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.08033) was complemented by an analysis of annual reports and evaluation documents, and this article summarises the policies and their performance indicators.

According to the sociology of science, policies and their performance indicators have constitutive effects on how science is performed [1]. In other words, indicators and rewards introduced by policies shape the process of knowledge production.

However, it has been argued that there may be a discrepancy between what is being measured by indicators and the quality of the scientific content as perceived by researchers in the field - the so-called ‘evaluation gap’ [2] which suggests that scientific quality may be sacrificed in order to meet the targets set by indicators.

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