Last month, I was discussing with Feli, from the budgeting team at my university, to upgrade the plan I had with WPEngine as we were paying overage charges due to excess visits. The plan was capped 100.000 thousand visits per month. And many months we were going over that limit (obviously, not during the summer and WPEngine’s counting may be generous but, still, with modeling-languages and ingenieriadesoftware bringing around 2500 visits per day combined, once we add other sites like livablesoftware, xatkit or this same site, we end up around that threshold).

When I explained to her the issue, she immediately recognized the potential impact of having so many visits. I wished this was so obvious also to my university and all the evaluation agencies at the regional, national and European level. Just to give you an example, the normalized CV from the Spanish government has the following official sections:  1 – Publications, 2 – Projects, 3 – Transfer contracts and 4 – Patents. Social impact, dissemination and tool development can be explained in the end, in the “others” section. 

Again, this is not a Spanish problem, it is a global one. You’re still basically evaluated by the number of (journal) publications. All the rest is complementary. And YES, everybody will tell you that they really love you invest time in disseminating your research. And yes, they will quickly point you to initiatives like Dora Manifesto to convince you that situation is changing. But I’ve heard this before. And I’m still waiting for somebody to answer me the question of what is the exchange rate between JCR journals and website visitors (or similarly, the exchange rate between the number of journals and the number of tool downloads, which is one of the reasons we need to kill some of our tools).

Until this happens, I’ll continue my dedication to writing about research in a way that, hopefully, also non-researchers can benefit from as 1 – I do believe this is part of my duty as scientist and 2 – I’m firmly convinced is also beneficial to ourselves (there’s plenty of smart people outside the academia 😉 that you get to know when you write about topics of their interest). But I will have a hard time convincing junior researchers to do so. Their quest to get a potential permanent position will be based on the number of accepted journals more than on any measure of real impact.

To be clear, I think many people in high-level positions in these evaluation agencies agree with this view. It’s just too easy (and cheap) to continue as always.