What are your two biggest accomplishments?

There are many reasons for rejecting a paper. The authors might have failed to communicate their results efficiently. There may be a flaw in the science. Or the authors might have cheated. These flaws come from oversights, incompetence, and lack of ethics. But most importantly, they may all be motivated by the greed to publish more and faster.

Today is a bad day. I reviewed or rereviewed 5 papers from 3 different sources today. The best of these papers is a case of self-plagiarism. Three of the five papers were written by inexperienced students, or they appear to be, with minimal or no supervision from a senior researcher. The last one might have made a good blog post.

I believe that we are due for a revolution in science. We need to definitively stop counting the number of papers people produce. This game has run its course. If I interpret what I read correctly, it has become quite a bit counterproductive.

I propose that people list their two biggest accomplishments. It could be an experiment or a theorem they proved. To improve your case, you need to outdo one of your two biggest accomplishments to date. It does not matter if you publish 50 papers a year: you only improve your status if you outdo yourself in a big way.

Students can get started quickly. Senior researchers will have a harder time making progress. I submit to you that industry already works this way. Senior engineers are only as reputed as their two biggest most-difficult projects. It does not matter if you completed 120 small projects.

C.V.s would now fit in a single page. Tell us where you work, where you got your Ph.D. and what the two big things you did are. That is it.

3 thoughts on “What are your two biggest accomplishments?”

  1. NSF Proposals use this system (or at least a variant of this system): list five relevant publications and five additional publications). I’m told that applications for national academy membership do also.

  2. Sérgio: I don’t think it does actually. To have a high h-index you need to have many average papers. Plus, the h-index still counts papers, just differently.

    I say we forgo paper counting altogether. Just tell the world what your biggest accomplishments are. That is all. It helps if they were peer reviewed.

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