Guest Post : Two Modest Proposals*

December 6, 2009

My UKIDSS co-conspirator Steve Warren has provided me with a nice wee guest post. In fact, as a special extra, its really two posts in one. Both parts are provocative proposals. So …. how about another poll ?

Steve on :

My first modest proposal is to introduce ‘ranked-normalised’ citations. Straight citations are good for people who typically work in large collaborations. Normalised citations take care of this to some extent, but don’t give credit to the first few authors who probably did most of the hard work. Ranked-normalised citations would work as follows. In a four author paper, the weights by author rank would be 4,3,2,1. These are then normalised by the sum of the weights, so the first author gets 0.4 of the citations, the second author 0.3 etc. In many cases this would be a fairer way of giving credit than either straight or normalised citations. Of course in some cases it won’t work, particularly when author lists are alphabetical – I’m afraid the Aarseths of this world will always do better than the Zytkows. I think ranked-normalised citations would be useful, and might even influence authorship lists.

My second modest proposal is to give away a small amount of telescope time by lottery. For example at the end of the meeeting the ESO OPC (or HST, Chandra, etc) would throw the names of all the successful PIs into a hat, and draw out one, who is then given 8 hours of grade A VLT time to do whatever they want. They wouldn’t have to justify the science in any way, and would be free to collaborate with anyone who they might think has a better idea. They wouldn’t have to justify how they used the time after the event. There would be no rules (well you can’t sell the time). I bet that those 8 hours would produce more science than average.

* A modest proposal is the title of a satirical essay by Jonathan Swift, in which he suggests that poor people in Ireland alleviate their suffering by selling their children to be eaten by the rich. Another of his works was The benefit of farting.

: Steve off

So : vote now ! Results will accumulate publicly this time.