Making science (part XI): A perverted view of “impact”

Marc Kirschner is the John Franklin Enders University Professor and chair of the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115. He recently wrote an editorial for Science magazine published on 14 June 2013.

Kirschner debunks the notion of research “impact” as the likelihood that the proposed work will have a “sustained and powerful influence”. He writes that: “Especially in fundamental research, which historically underlies the greatest innovation, the people doing the work often cannot themselves anticipate the ways in which it may bring human benefit. Thus, under the guise of an objective assessment of impact, such requirements invite exaggerated claims of the importance of the predictable outcomes—which are unlikely to be the most important ones. This is both misleading and dangerous“.

Importantly, he says that “One may be able to recognize good science as it happens, but significant science can only be viewed in the rearview mirror. To pretend otherwise distorts science.

Everyone preoccupied about the “impact” of current and future research should read Marc Kirschner’s full piece HERE.