A comment piece by Professor Schekman in the Guardian today reflects widespread concerns in academia that reward structures — especially around publishing and ‘impact’ — are creating pressure to conduct research in ways that betray or undermine the academic virtues. As Schekman points out, worries about institutions rewarding the wrong kinds of behaviour can be raised in other professions too:
I am a scientist. Mine is a professional world that achieves great things for humanity. But it is disfigured by inappropriate incentives. The prevailing structures of personal reputation and career advancement mean the biggest rewards often follow the flashiest work, not the best. Those of us who follow these incentives are being entirely rational – I have followed them myself – but we do not always best serve our profession’s interests, let alone those of humanity and society.
We all know what distorting incentives have done to finance and banking. The incentives my colleagues face are not huge bonuses, but the professional rewards that accompany publication in prestigious journals […]