The well-measured beanPosted: May 5, 2013
Another discussion about author rank over at the Drugmonkey Web Log. Commenter GMP raised the point that in collaborations, comp/theory is relegated to the fly-over section of the author list, while the bench scientists are the coastal elites at the beginning and end. Meh. If that is generally true of comp/theory, then it is known in that field and those in the field will judge your work accordingly. That’s why papers and grants and tenure files all involve evaluation by people also in your field.
And this is what is dumb about hand-wringing over this shit and all kinds of altmetric wackaloonery. All disciplines / subdisciplines / subsubdisciplines have their cultural norms, for better or worse. Part of your job as a scientist is to know the norms of your tribe. This desire to standardize, measure, quantify anything and everything across and within disciplines is misbegotten nonsense driven by people who are bean counters at heart, but just want better and better ways of counting, weighing, comparing, and describing beans. If you can’t figure out which beans are which in your discipline just by tasting them, you’re in trouble, and math isn’t going to help. The practice of science is composed of culture – well, many cultures. It’s like trying to come up with statistics to compare the dramatic qualities of various community theater groups. Yeah, you probably could, but who cares? The theater dorks know what’s what.
Obviously, I see the utility of looking at this if you are specifically and professionally interested in publishing practices in science, like you are in library sciences or something. If you are a working scientist, my advice is to ignore it all with extreme prejudice. If you start pay attention to shitty stats, then the stats will become your goal, and you will become an empty shell of a person.
Relatedly: The fallacy of the age of big data is that all data are interesting.