How much is a citation worth? $3? $6? $100 000?
In this insightful opinion piece, Retraction Watch Co-Founder Ivan Oransky and colleagues reflect on the damage being done by impact factors, metrics and incentives that encourage large volumes of research outputs and not quality research behaviour (such as data sharing, peer review and correcting the scientific record). We have known for some time what has been damaging and mutating science, and now we need to be courageous and take action to fundamentally change the systems that are causing the problem.
Bibliometrics and school rankings are largely based on publications and citations. Take the Times Higher Education rankings, for example, in which citations and papers count for more than a third of the total score.4 Or the Shanghai Ranking, 60% of which is determined by publications and highly cited researchers.5 The QS Rankings count citations per faculty as a relatively low 20%.6 But the US News Best Global Universities ranking counts publication and citation related metrics as 60%.7
These rankings are not, to borrow a phrase, merely academic matters. Funding agencies, including many governments, use them to decide where to award grants. Citations are the currency of academic success, but their value also attracts more money and resources to institutions and academics.