Reward Systems

The major challenge that underlies any change to our current scholarly communication systems, whether it is a change to the process of conventional publications or the introduction of new channels, is the lack of incentives for researchers to change. Our current system of incentives, for career advancement, promotion, and obtaining research funding is very tightly coupled to our traditional means of communication.

There are often calls for radical change. Top down modifications to the system by institutions and funders are often called for. At the same time grass roots movements appear agitating for major changes to systems of assessment, promotion and grant distribution. Broadly speaking both approaches are doomed to failure. It is not possible for us to "start over" with our systems for assigning prestige and assessing quality. What we can do is to add to our existing systems, offer improvements that fit with the current system, and tweak the way that our current processes run.

This can take many forms. In the case of data publication systems for tracking and managing data citation offer a mechanism to develop an understanding of how the importance of a data set can be compared to the importance of a paper. New measures of public engagement and researcher interest in specific research paper can be provided by looking at social media - and when these are more widely accepted they will in turn these measures also be applied to new forms of scholarly output.

Finally there are increasing efforts to re-focus on the questions that are being asked in funding, promotion, and tenure decisions. What is the role that a person will fill? What is the need that a specific grant program is trying to address? And how can we bring a rich set of data to bear in supporting that strategic decision making. The science of how do science is rather imperfectly applied currently. But as scientists our impulse should be to gather data, conduct experiments, and define how we can best make the important decisions that we need to tackle as a community.