Federal and state funding for higher education has tightened considerably in recent years, creating a hyper-competitive academic research environment. Researchers confront pressure to constantly pursue multiple grant opportunities, demonstrate research impact by publishing in a handful of highly selective journals, and protect their data, rather than share information for the betterment of science. At the same time, they are not rewarded for taking time to teach, mentor, and serve the scientific community. These trends contribute to a systemically unhealthy academic environment, impeding the exploratory nature of discovery science and threatening the quality of U.S. biomedical research. We believe HHMI has an opportunity to collaborate with other scientific leaders to address these issues in concrete ways.
HHMI will promote and model a scientific publishing system that puts the interest of science above the interest of publishers, through open dissemination and transparent evaluation of scientific work.
Rationale: If we value scientists who share their research results openly and rapidly, we need to devise better incentives to promote a culture of open science. Currently, academic incentives are pegged to a publishing system that was designed in a pre-digital world, with journals as gatekeepers of quality control and publishing. As a result, scientific publishing serves the interests of publishers over those of the scientific community. Many academic institutions effectively buy into this model by making decisions about their faculty based largely on journal metrics and quantity of output.
Approach: In partnership with other funders and scientific organizations, we will consider and support new publishing models, such as author-driven dissemination and a transparent evaluation process that treats peer reviews as scholarly work. We will also leverage HHMI’s support for, and lessons from, the journal eLife, which has already established a transparent and consultative peer review process.
HHMI will promote consideration of models for faculty evaluation that emphasize the long-term impact of their research and include an evaluation of teaching, mentoring, and service.
Rationale: If we value scientists who execute original, creative, and bold research programs, while contributing to the greater scientific community, we need to evaluate them based on these characteristics. HHMI applies these standards to evaluation of our HHMI investigators. While the exact methods that work for HHMI will not work everywhere, we believe that scientific leaders can together pioneer effective principles of evaluation – ultimately changing science for the better.
Approach: In partnership with leaders of academic institutions and funders, we will explore how to better evaluate research performance, teaching, mentoring, and service. We plan to do this by convening leaders, sharing our experience, and continuing to refine our own methods of evaluation.