University bragging undermines the credibility of science
Twenty-five years ago, in our ever-more-interconnected world, money was predicted to no longer be the primary currency, and it came to the fore. This will reshape social values and shortchange those around you as you become addicted to striving for attention. In other words, the urge for self will come at the expense of concern for others. This prediction is being played out as prophetic, the attention economy is here, and there are social changes associated with it.
Science in the Attention Economy
Science and scientists are part of society. Neither sits in a high position that makes them immune to social change. More than 50 years ago, it was predicted that as science grew, its structure would change from community-driven to individual-driven. In the process, there will be an increase in the quantitative metrics by which scientists can be evaluated. Initially, metrics were limited to peer-to-peer attention via citation counts.
It spread. The attention that a scientist’s work receives from the public now influences its perceived value. Scientists list the number of media exposures on their resumes, and many PhD dissertations now include the number of times a candidate’s research has been published in popular scientific journals. Science has succumbed to the attention economy.
Scientists have always wanted their work to be noticed. It’s nothing new. But the ecosystem changes when caution becomes commonplace. And that changing ecosystem includes universities, scholarly publishing, and the way science is presented to the public.
The university adopts a business model that follows economic market forces. As the market got more attention, colleges jumped headfirst into the attention game. Faculty members now receive the message “Bragging about yourself”. Boasting is increasingly focused on how much attention the faculty’s work receives from the media. entrepreneurship, and the value of a scientific paper is related to how much attention it receives. That attention, in turn, comes in terms of the university’s academic interests – rankings and external funding.
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Academic publishing is now dominated by commercial enterprises. Subscription revenue and income from authors who pay for publication are no longer the only sources of profit. Currencies are more prominent in the publisher’s portfolio of journals. Publishers offer authors a game plan for getting their papers noticed on social media, popular scientific journals, and podcasts. These attention-grabbing schemes are packaged by publishers with phrases like “Get the attention your science deserves.” Of course, scientists gain career benefits from participating in these schemes.
How the Attention Economy Corrupts Science
This leads to science communication in the attention economy. Historically, scientists communicated their results to their peers in the scientific community. When properly evaluated, validated, or refuted, influential results gain attention, but this takes time. Breakthroughs were so publicly proclaimed (and others’ contributions acknowledged).
But the attention economy has changed the ecosystem. Results are now available to the public as influential, before community evaluation takes place. Often, even small findings or irreproducible results are hyped as important enough to be shared with the public. It leads to framing results in ways that downplay uncertainty as well as viable alternative hypotheses. It also devalues studies that reproduce (or cannot reproduce) previous results.
The above leads to some crises in science. These include the reproducibility crisis, the hype of poor results, excessive competition among scientists, and increased retraction rates. It also leads to an uncoordinated flood of scientific results being blasted into the masses under the guise of mass education – all always declared as breakthroughs. I’m doing it with the idea that. “Deserving” is a step away from “qualified,” and people who feel entitled tend to care little for others. A large portion of the public (“others”) is exhausted. Confidence in science may decline.
And here lies the scientific paradox in the attention economy. What is seen as valuable to individual scientists and institutions (e.g., “getting the attention you deserve”) undermines society’s credibility and limits science as a collective resource (i.e., the common good). depreciating the value ofThis could lead science towards the tragedy of the commons, and individual actions taken without malice could lead to the collapse of common resources, or at least the systematic restructuring of science as a social resource. I have.
why should you care about this? You are part of the system, you are the consumer of the scientific interest market, and consumer awareness has value. So look for clear signs that your goal is to get attention, not to convey information. (One notable sign is when the focus is on the reputation of the institution rather than the quality of the science itself.)
If we continue to recognize that our interest is currency and it is not an infinite resource, we can use it wisely. It will benefit the scientific enterprise.