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Performance-Based Incentives, Research Evaluation Systems and the Trickle-Down of Bad Science

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Alberto Baccini’s presentation for INET’s panel on research evaluation at the G20 Global Solutions Summit in Berlin, May 2018.

Governments or university managers, vice-chancellors or rectors need information about effectiveness of research funding. Governments are increasingly using monitoring tools as instruments for governance. The promise of bibliometric tools or journal rankings for reducing complexities is a feature that managers, policy-makers and academics find appealing. Systems of incentives are designed for steering scientists at a distance and indicators of scientific activities become more and more targets for scientists. It is the era of the governance of science by indicators.

There is no time now for reconstructing how the main characteristics of this era emerged. My thesis here is that the adoption of a research policy based on research evaluation systems rewarding performance of scientists could be at the root of many deep problems afflicting contemporary science. And it could be also responsible for the growing difficulties of using the best available science for governmental regulation and policy, in particular for economic policy.