“It has never been easier for scientists to show off the various ways in which their work deserves attention and funds.”
Impact: The search for the science that matters
Every government and organization that funds research wants to support science that makes a difference — by opening up new academic vistas, stimulating innovation, influencing public policies or directly improving people's lives. But separating the best from the rest has never been harder. This Nature special issue examines, through journalism and comment, how the impact of research is traced and measured — and asks whether today's evaluation systems elevate the most influential science.
Every organization that funds research wants to support science that makes a difference. But there is no simple formula for identifying truly important research. And the job is becoming more difficult. As funding gets squeezed, scientists face stiffer competition for resources and jobs, and it becomes more crucial than ever to develop reliable ways of spotting and supporting the best work. This week, Nature examines how the impact of research is measured — and asks whether today’s evaluation systems promote the most important science.
A News Feature on page 288 examines how countries are assessing work through elaborate audit systems. Supporters say that these improve overall research quality, whereas critics charge that they eat up time and money and skew grants towards ‘hot topics’. A second News Feature on page 291 looks at the influence of the leading journals, traditionally recognized as a filter for important research. That role is now being challenged by changes in the publishing industry. And a Careers Feature on page 397 discusses how grant applicants can articulate the potential impact of their research, as required by many granting agencies.