Measuring success
in scientific technology

Are publications the best measure of output and contribution?

In a scientific community where collaboration is key do publications represent the BEST WAY FOR IMAGING SCIENTISTS TO GAIN RECOGNITION? 


Thoughts regarding publication
  • Customer Testimonails

    Publication as a metric

    I think it's extremely important because it shows our contribution as a facility towards the scientific output.

    Lucy Collinson Head of Electron Microscopy
    The Francis Crick Institute
  • Mike Ferguson

    Outdated metric for output

    As we get into more and more interdisciplinary work, it [publications] gets more and more outdated.

    Mike Ferguson Regius Professor of Life Sciences and Academic Lead for Research Strategy
    University of Dundee
  • Peter O’Toole

    Metrics beyond publications

    If you're influencing commercial companies to change their products and that has an impact across the globe that's a pretty big impact, but it's not measurable in the same way as publications.

    Peter O’Toole Head of Imaging and Cytrometry
    University of York
  • Joelle Goulding

    It's proving that your role is important. That, I need to be supported so I can then support other people.

    Joelle Goulding
    Research Fellow in Advanced Microscopy University of Nottingham
  • John Harrington

    Once you are off the technical scale and you are on the academic research scales then it's essential that you have publications because you're not going to progress otherwise in an academic institution.

    John Harrington Facility Manager - LEMAS
    University of Leeds
  • Rik Drummond-Brydson

    Most of the papers are driven by users because they provide the samples, and they provide the questions that need to be answered.

    Rik Drummond-Brydson Professor of Nanomaterials Characterisation
    University of Leeds

Policies for Publication

In academic research, peer-reviewed publications are currently the standard by which performance is measured, and recognition is achieved.


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In scientific publications facility staff typically appear in a middle-position on the author line, in the acknowledgements or not at all, depriving them of the only generally recognised measurable of success. This situation makes bioimaging facility staff vulnerable when university budgeting projects and/or funding bodies are keen to save money.

One way to safeguard and ensure that Imaging Scientists get the proper recognition they deserve via publications is to have a policy for publication in place whereby all contributing parties are accredited.

However, our interviews with Imaging Scientists show that this varies from facility to facility, and there seems to be no standard way of formalising authorship and accreditation. The following successful examples show that where there is a will and proactive approach that a consensus can be reached to formalise an agreement giving Imaging Scientists the recognition they deserve in answering the scientific questions.

Conclusions & Future Directions

Peer-reviewed publication is the metric that most institutions use to evaluate scientific output.

Contributions of Imaging Scientists to user training, technology development and equipment maintenance are rarely captured through publication authorship.

Publication output can be used to evaluate the performance of Imaging Scientists if an institution has policies and processes that ensure Imaging Scientists are included as authors on papers where they make a contribution.

As science becomes more interdisciplinary, publication-based metrics may become an outdated and inaccurate method of measuring fundamental output.