Blog of Sara Jakša

Incentives, Open Science and Personal Development

There is a problem, that I on-and-off think about since around the New Year. I am supposed to be mentoring a friend in public speaking. But I don't think, that I am doing a good job. The main problem is, that I can see that she takes my suggestions and tries to incorporate it, but that does not really improves the speeches.

Which means, the problem is most likely with me and not with her.

So I am going through the book Opening Science: The Evolving Guide on How the Internet is Changing Research, Collaboration and Scholarly Publishing right now. In the third chapter, there is a conversation about how in incentives have created a situation, which lowered the quality and meaningfulness of science. They say, that this is based on the need, to judge the work of scientists, without being a scientist themselves.

Which, if you had ever tried to judge the work in something, you had no idea about? It is almost impossible. Just because somebody write the most lines of code, does not make them a good programmer. Just because a book is a best-seller, that does not mean that the book is good. And just because the scientific article was published in the high-rank journal, this does not mean, that this is the truth (or in some cases, that this is well made science).

Even more, when it comes to improving ourselves. Just because I notice a mistake in somebody else's speech, this does not mean, that this is something that this person should be working on. I mean, I could get that, when people were constantly noting on my "misuse" of speech at Toastmasters, but nobody told me, that they had troubles with following my speeches, until I already improved that. I don't know, but the later seems sort of more important to me than the former?

I have sort of started to notice this with my personal stuff. If I would count the books by checking the number all the time, then I would start reading shorter and easier books. Which is now, what I was supposed to be doing. So instead, the only way to get the number, is to run a script (and I put the files and script in completely different folders, so that there is another step is between), and I only do this once per year. On the long run, I am sure reading some a bit harder or longer book would be more satisfying.

In some senses, these metrics can do some good to create a habit. If a person is not used to reading books all the time, then keeping track of the number of books read can be motivational. If the goal is to get rid of fear, then metric like that could also be helpful. Afraid of public speaking? Then count the number of times you stand on the stage in a month. Afraid of socialization. It helps to keep track of how many social gathering one attended in a month without known company (they are way too much of a crouch, and then there is no motivation, to help meet other people).

But once passed this, it need to be well though out, what metrics to use. Because the improvement will go in the direction of these metrics and nowhere else. Just like the scientific articles are a lot more marginal now, since the number of publications is one of the metric being tracked. So people don't wait, to develop a theory before publishing, but they publish a lot of times before that. I am sure, that today the Jung's Personality Types or Darwin's On the Origin of Species, would be instead published as dozens of unconnected articles.