Twenty-five years ago, it was projected that, in an ever-more interconnected world, money would no longer be the prime currency, attention would be. T

The credibility of science is damaged when universities brag about themselves

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2022-10-01 05:00:14

Twenty-five years ago, it was projected that, in an ever-more interconnected world, money would no longer be the prime currency, attention would be. This would reshape social values, and as we became more engrossed in efforts to gain attention, we would shortchange those around us; in other words, the drive for self would come at the expense of concern for others. The projection has played out as prophetic, and the attention economy is here, with its associated societal shifts.

Science and scientists are part of society. Neither sit on a lofty perch that makes them impervious to societal shifts. More than 50 years ago, it was projected that, as science grew larger, its structure would shift from community-driven to individual-driven. Along the way, there would be a rise in quantitative metrics to evaluate scientists. Initially, metrics were limited to attention amongst peers, via citation counts.

That has expanded. The attention a scientist’s work gains from the public now plays into its perceived value. Scientists list media exposure counts on résumés, and many PhD theses now include the number of times a candidate’s work has appeared in the popular science press. Science has succumbed to the attention economy.

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