Incentivizing great research

The American scientific enterprise is renowned for the quality of research it produces. However, pressures on individual scientists to publish in high-impact journals, secure grants and comply with regulations may be weakening the quality of American science by providing incentives that can interfere with the pursuit of groundbreaking discoveries. Such perverse incentives may be contributing to the rise in irreproducible research, the disproportionate time spent on writing grants and papers, and the reduction in time devoted to experiments and training. Most importantly, these incentives may be getting in the way of scientists’ regular beneficial interactions with colleagues and the larger scientific community.

The Public Affairs Advisory Committee symposium at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 2016 annual meeting will focus on analyzing counterproductive pressures on scientists and discuss how they can be managed to preserve and incentivize outstanding research. The panel discussion, to be held at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 3, in Room 6A of the San Diego Convention Center, will cover:

  •  pressure to publish — evaluating research quality, reproducibility and importance
  •  pressure to obtain grants — balancing translational vs. basic science, safe vs. daring science, etc.
  •  pressure to achieve tenure — balancing collaborative and individual contributions
  •  pressure to comply — finding the right level of regulation.

As of now, speakers for this session include Randy Schekman, 2013 Nobel laureate and professor of cell and developmental biology at the University of California, Berkeley; Jon Lorsch, director of the National Institute for General Medical Sciences; and Vivian Lee, dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine. After the presentations, there will be an opportunity for the audience members to join in the discussion and share their views on how best to eliminate perverse incentives in research.

Benjamin Corb Benjamin Corb is director of public affairs at ASBMB.