What is science as sport? In sports we measure achievement by winning and so for science it means measuring success in research using metrics that measure esteem: How many citations do I have? What is my H-index? How prestigious are the journals in which I publish? How many grants have I obtained? How soon have I been promoted?
It was reported in the press this week, first by the Wall Street Journal, that Google has been paying money to academics at US and UK universities in exchange for research aligned with Google’s policy interests. The reporting is based in part on a report, compiled by the Campaign for Accountability, and was picked up by major newspapers. As expected, Google is rejecting the claims and as reported in Wired it seems that the report could have been compiled more carefully.
The facts however remain. Researchers have taken money from Google—in the form of fellowships and research grants—and then written academic papers expressing views favourable to Google partially without acknowledging Google’s financial contributions. After the dust settles we will be left with two questions:
- What is the damage?
- Who is to blame?