Last week saw one of our regular meetings with the Directors (and the Directors of Operations) of the Institutes enjoying strategic support from the BBSRC. This was held at The Roslin Institute, and was the first such meeting since most of the Institutes had undergone major governance changes. It therefore provided a very useful forum for comparing notes and best practices, and especially for seeing where some intellectual overlaps might be exploited to best advantage. The differences in the essential knowledgebases (and literatures) in plant and animal genetics provided one obvious example. [...]
Tag: research committees
Last week the great majority of meetings were internal meetings in Swindon, although one important external meeting I attended was that of our Appointments Board. Here a considerable degree of scrutiny is attached to ensuring that we have the right intellectual (and where possible diversity) balance on our Committees and Panels. One criterion we use in selecting members for Committees (apart from asking folk to apply) is the effectiveness with which they undertake refereeing assignments that we send to them. Another is the effectiveness of their own grant applications, as both of these metrics pertain to their likely effectiveness when serving on Committees. [...]
This blog updates you on what BBSRC has been doing over the past weeks, and I will now be back to my weekly blogging.
BBSRC meetings included those of Council, Appointments Board and my first attendance at our Integrative and Systems Biology Strategy Panel. External meetings included two with JISC, exploring in particular the likely needs for bandwidth that our community will discover as we move in particular towards the era of very high throughput nucleic acid sequencing. I also gave a talk, as a double act with Tony Hey of Microsoft Research, on ‘Data-intensive science: why and how’ at a meeting hosted by the University of Exeter. [...]
The availability of many records in digital format opens up many possibilities, not least in bibliometrics, a subject that I anticipate will be a regular feature of these blogs. For this blog we are going to look briefly at the distribution of scientific activity between individuals, as encapsulated by the question ‘if n individuals have published 1 scientific paper in a particular time period, how many individuals have published 2 papers or 10 papers or 100 papers?’
Now one might wonder whether one should expect there to be any regularities in such a (quantised) distribution, but there are. The question was posed and answered most pertinently by Alfred Lotka in 1926, and the relationship is known as Lotka’s Law. Lotka observed, from a study of papers listed in Chemical Abstracts and in Auerbach’s Geschichtstafeln der Physik, that the number of persons making n contributions is given by 1/na of those making a single contribution, with a equalling approximately 2. Thus for every 100 people who have published 1 paper, 25 have published 2 papers and 1 person has published 10 papers. In other words, the distribution of scientific productivity is best described by an inverse square law (a specific version of a negative exponential more generally referred to as a Zipf distribution). Although this is not universally true, it is a reasonable approximation and has some interesting mechanistic bases. The consequences, as recognised in Lotka’s original survey, included the fact that 60% of contributions were made by authors who contributed only one paper (and note that all joint papers were taken to have been written by the ‘senior’ author only). Nowadays this would be seen as a long-tail phenomenon, as popularised in Chris Anderson’s excellent book. [...]