When competition seriously adversely affects the quality of scientific research

When competition seriously adversely affects the quality of scientific research

“Research is the invention of things that others do not do, so it’s by definition a form of competition. You have to take it.”, Antoine Petit saidInn The world, On February 14, he was re-appointed as head of the CNRS. Except that not everyone agrees, it evokes a long list of negative effects of competition such as personality development, breaks in collaboration, culture of secrecy, and a waste of time and money. To compete …

“There are always a lot of comments on this topic, but a few knowledgeable comments”, Recalls Pierre Azole, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). So the interest in a work that peers are reviewing is updated at the beginning of the year. Carolyn Stein and Ryan Hill received post-doctoral degrees from Stanford and Brigham Young University, respectively, after a dissertation at MIT. Express first One negative effect of this competition: it gives low quality results … “We’ve often heard people talk about this relationship between competition and negative effects, but it’s based on stories, so we need to see what the data can say.”Caroline Stein summarizes.

Their method is intelligent. As an area of ​​competition, the two studied structural biologists trying to find out, thanks to X-rays, a form of protein that is linked to its function. This data is stored in the Public Database (PDB) for public use.

Risk of competition

Both researchers describe the biological model of this community of biologists. The second decides to engage in determining the protein structure, taking into account the time it takes for them, the expected income (based on quotations from their article in subsequent works), and the human resources to be allocated for it. . But they must take into account the possibility of overcoming opponents. “This is a simplification of the real world, but experts in the field have told us that this is enough.”, Says Caroline Stein. This dilemma between the time they have to set aside for their work and the fear of being second to none is described by a very simple mathematical model that has a good tendency to make predictions and, above all, their variables can be calculated.

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Thus, the quality of the research is measured by the accuracy of the three-dimensional structures obtained. The time spent and the number of people involved are available in the database. You can also access the number of competing teams by learning how many protein structures are deposited there. Finally, both assess the “potential” of a search, using a tool to predict how often an article will be cited, an indicator that is certainly controversial, but is widely used to gauge a work’s approval. This forecast is based on an analysis of more or less quoted structures in the past.

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