Researchers to be held accountable

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The University of Tromsø has become the first in Norway to mount a study of what its researchers are doing, and intends to hold them accountable. University officials want to see a sharp increase in the amount of their material that gets published.

The old saying “publish or perish” may be taking on new meaning at the university in northern Norway. Fully 20 percent of its researchers haven’t published anything in the past four years, while another 20 percent have published very little.

Meanwhile, the university’s study shows that 25 percent of its researchers are behind 75 percent of what does get published, while 5 percent publish “very much.”

University dean Jarle Aarbakke told newspaper Aftenposten that he realizes such studies are “controversial,” but says they “give us important management tools.” He thinks many researchers “come up short,” because they don’t manage to share their findings with the rest of the world.

“And we must remember that research is paid for by the public sector, so Norway has a right to see some results,” Aarbakke said. 

Frequency of publication tends to be equally divided among men and women, he said, but researchers over the age of 60 tend to publish less than their younger colleagues.

Those struggling to publish will be offered help, he said, through groups and team work, consultations with their mentors or other university officials, and various tailor-made programs aimed at boosting publication rates.

Goals will be set and researchers will be urged to enter more competitions or cooperation when several researchers pool their efforts. The researchers, said Aarbakke, must accept that they’ll be measured. He noted, however, that some researchers work on school text books, write newspaper commentaries or articles for popular magazines that don’t get included in publishing statistics.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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