A few weeks ago I gave a presentation on the topic of “Steering science through output indicators & data capitalism” at the 23rd Congress of the European Society of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition (ESVCN 2019) held at Turin/ Italy. The slides of this presentation are now online on Slideshare or can be watched right below.
It describes how commercial companies create operating systems with highly integrated services, which scientists use in every phase of their daily work and which by the way produce data about this work. These data, in turn, are processed by the commercial providers and converted into further products, which are now offered to the science bureaucracy as a tool for recruitment and research planning. The structure and marketing of both the tools for scientists and the controlling tools for the administration have features that are widely known from electronic environments (compliance through convenience, vendor-lock-in), but also features that show at the same time elements of the centrally planned economy and (although at first sight incompatible with it) a strong competitive connotation. The presentation also discusses the possible consequences of such a data-driven science control for individual researchers as well as for science as a social enterprise. The corresponding article in the conference proceedings can be found here.
As described in this article and the presentation, commercial actors are increasingly monitoring and evaluating science. In my opinion, there are strong, but hardly addressed role conflicts: For example, if Elsevier or Digital Science, which are publishers themselves or belong to companies that also operate publishing houses, market the monitoring and evaluation tools.
The Open Access Monitor in Germany, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, also relies heavily on data from the Dimensions Database. Dimensions is a service operated by Digital Science which is owned by the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, which in turn owns over 50% of the publishing house Springer Nature.
This intertwining certainly does not per se imply an influence of Springer Nature on the monitor and is probably due to financial as well as practical considerations. However, it does draw attention to the fact that institutions that license the data-driven control systems or make downstream use of its data must consider the consequences of these agreements on the sovereignty of the structure, quality and interpretation of the data.
But now to the slides ….
Ulrich Herb (2019). Steering science through Output Indicators & Data Capitalism. Proceedings of the 23rd Congress of the European Society of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition (ESVCN 2019), Turin/ Italy, 17-20 September 2019.
Ulrich Herb (2018). Zucht oder Libido Sciendi? Eine Dystopie der Wissenschaftssteuerung. Laborjournal. Sommer 2018. https://www.laborjournal.de/rubric/essays/essays2018/e18_08.php
Ulrich Herb (2018). Zwangsehen und Bastarde. Wohin steuert Big Data die Wissenschaft? Information – Wissenschaft & Praxis, 69(2-3), 81–88. DOI:10.1515/iwp-2018-0021
Open Access unter: https://publikationen.sulb.uni-saarland.de/handle/20.500.11880/27437