Thursday, February 25, 2010

DFG: Quality, not Quantity

The German basic research funding agency DFG announced a decisive change for its application and reporting procedures on Feb. 23, 2010. They will no longer count the number of publications as a quality indicator.

Instead, researchers may only list up to 5 publications - their most important publications. No publications that have been submitted or are in preparation will be accepted, only published or accepted for publication papers are allowed. For reporting on grants or for research directly related to the current grant application, a maximum of two papers per grant year may be listed.

The new rules take effect in July 2010. The DFG states explicitly that they want to go against the trend to equate quantity with quality. They want referees to focus more on the project goals.

They note that the recent spate of academic misconduct cases were not the reason for them changing the rules. And they realize that it will be difficult for researchers to change how they write grant applications. But they feel that most scientists will learn the first time they get a grant rejected for putting too many publications on their C.V.

I heartily applaud the decision of the DFG and sent the press release to all of my colleagues. There has already been moaning - if publications aren't counted any more, the lazy people will now have another reason not to publish. This will certainly be a continued, interesting discussion in Germany.

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