Finkel calls for quality over-sight in research

Research publishing needs a quality auditor, you can bank on – Chief Scientist Alan Finkel explains

Dr Finkel has renewed his call for research publishing oversight. In a speech to the Peter Doherty Institute yesterday he suggested that the incentive basis of research funding could encourage sub-standard papers in pursuit of reward maximising-metrics, reminiscent of behaviour identified in the banking royal commission.

“The lessons arising from the Royal Commission are inherently relevant to the research sector.  Specifically, there are some incentives within the research community that, in my view, need to be looked at.  It’s not that the system is broken.  It’s more that we may be inadvertently encouraging poor behaviour. And to ensure research remains high-quality and trustworthy, we need to get the incentives right.”

The problem, the Chief Scientist said is, “the competition for funding is fierce and is increasing every day. The temptation to judge a researcher’s performance through simple metrics is strong.” … “Getting research published has, in some cases, become more important than getting it right,” Dr Finkel said.

To ensure quality over cash for quantity he proposed;

* funding agencies comprehensively use the “rule of five” in assessing grant applications – five best publications over five years

* accredited research integrity training mandatory for grant applicants, and:

* tackling “predatory, evil, crooked,” pay-to-publish, no peer-review journals, via a Publication Process Quality Assurance

Compliance with PPQA would indicate to researchers, research institutions, libraries and granting agencies that the journal follows internationally accepted guidelines for the publication process.”

Dr Finkel put the possibility of a private provider over-sighting journal quality, pointing to Clarivate Analytics for the, “rigour of their journal selection process – focussed on agreed standards, not citation impact.”

The Chief Scientist’s new speech expands the quality assurance case he made in Hong Kong in June, (CMM June 4). “I’ll be continuing to have conversations with granting agencies in Australia and around the world on how to end the business model of predatory publishers,” he said yesterday.


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