Peter K. Dearden
Sorry we have been away
2011 was a colossal year for us, and 2012 doesn’t look much better.
One of the key things that has been occupying our attention, and that of most of the rest of the University community, is PBRF; the Performance Based Research Fund. Every several years we are assessed as to the quality of our research, and because there is an arbitrary deadline, we all rush to get our research published before the deadline. I failed, and now have a bunch of cool papers to write that won’t count.
Part of the PBRF process is about what papers we get published and their quality. Unfortunately there is no good single measure of quality of a publication, so we put them all in. Journal impact factors, rankings, citations etc, all get quoted as evidence of how wonderful and important our work is. In the years leading up to PBRF we spend a great deal of time trying to get our papers into journals that will look good at PBRF time. What that generally means is writing up a manuscript, then sending it to a journal with a high impact factor, getting it rejecting, sending it somewhere else, rejection, somewhere else, rejection; all the while sliding down the journal rankings, until it gets into a journal. Often it gets into the journal you think it would naturally go into, but on the way it has been reformatted for each journal, peer reviewed continuously, and edited to deal with reviews and editors comments.
But PBRF isn’t just about our papers, we also get judged on Peer-Esteem and Contributions to Research Environment. To deal with this we have to develop a portfolio providing evidence of how much our colleagues like us, and how much we do to support research. Apparently the number of friends you have on facebook isn’t ‘evidence of peer esteem’.
So here at the University of Otago we have just had to submit our PBRF portfolio, and so for the last two weeks we have all been looking up our H-indices, our average cites and the rank positions of the journals we publish in. To tell the truth we have probably also been looking at everyone else’s too, just to try and work out where we might fit in the PBRF scales.
But though it changes the way we work, and writing the portfolio is a chore we could do without, I quite like PBRF. At this University, PBRF has made a huge difference, it has raised research to be a key driver of the University. Support for research is high, and the quality of research is increasing. All our senior management are required to carry out research. This is awesome. For a guy like me who loves research, working in a place where that is seen as valuable is great.
So while a number of sleepless nights and painful days have gone into the process, I am happy to be judged on what I do. And happy that the tax payers, who foot the bill for my research, might get some measure of its quality and usefulness.
Long live PBRF (now I duck for cover…)