Expert Failure: Re-evaluating Research Assessment
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© 2013 Eisen et al.
Funding organisations, scientists, and the general public need robust and reliable ways to evaluate the output of scientific research. In this issue of PLOS Biology, Adam Eyre-Walker and Nina Stoletzki analyse the subjective assessment and citations of more than 6,000 published papers . They show that expert assessors are biased by the impact factor (IF) of the journal in which the paper has been published and cannot consistently and independently judge the “merit” of a paper or predict its future impact, as measured by citations. They also show that citations themselves are not a reliable way to assess merit as they are inherently highly stochastic. In a final twist, the authors argue that the IF is probably the least-bad metric amongst the small set that they analyse, concluding that it is the best surrogate of the merit of individual papers currently available.
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