Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

Prof. David Parnas' views on Corruption of (Academic) Computer Science Researchers/Scientists by Publication Counts

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Prof. David Parnas' views on Corruption of (Academic) Computer Science Researchers/Scientists by Publication Counts

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Last updated on 16th April 2013

Prof. David Parnas,,, "is a Canadian early pioneer of software engineering". He has won several famous awards in the field of computer science including ACM fellow(ship) and IEEE fellow(ship).

Prof. Parnas has published an article/paper titled, "Stop the Numbers Game" with a subtitle, "Counting papers slows the rate of scientific progress.", [It is also available here as free download/reading:,]

It was published in Communications of the ACM, November 2007. "Communications of the ACM",, is considered to be "the leading print and online publication for the computing and information technology fields". states that "Communications of the ACM is the internationally acknowledged premier magazine of the computing field."

For those who would like to know about its impact factor, gives its impact factor as 1.92 (which seems to be a very high figure for journals/publications in the field of Computer Science and Software Engineering).

I have given below notes about and some extracts from the above-mentioned article dated Nov. 2007 of Prof. Parnas:

[Please note that the CC-BY, Creative Commons Attribution license does not apply to this post.]

"As a senior researcher, I am saddened to see funding agencies, department heads, deans, and promotion committees encouraging younger researchers to do shallow research. As a reader of what should be serious scientific journals, I am annoyed to see the computer science literature being polluted by more and more papers of less and less scientific value."

Prof. Parnas criticises the widespread policy of measuring (academic) researcher by number of papers published instead of the quality of the paper as the cause of such corruption.
He notes that paper-count-based evaluation schemes are considered as "objective" but sarcastically quips that such an "objective measure of contribution is frequently contribution-independent" :)!
He writes that (academic) scientists play the publication count (numbers) game and thereby get corrupted.
He states that a proper evaluation of a research paper requires several qualified persons to not only study and understand the paper but also prepare a summary of how it contributes to some greater picture.
He notes that the present (academic) evaluation system is self-perpetuating. "Those who are highly rated by the system are frequently asked to rate each other and others; they are unlikely to want to change a system that gave them their status."
The distinguished computer science Prof. David Parnas concludes, "Those who want to see computer science progress and contribute to the society that pays for it must object to rating-by-counting schemes every time they see one being applied. If you get a letter of recommendation that counts numbers of publications, rather than commenting substantively on a candidate’s contributions, ignore it; it states only what anyone can see. When serving on recruiting, promotion, or grant-award committees, read the candidate’s papers and evaluate the contents carefully. Insist that others do the same."

[The extracts from Prof. Parnas' above mentioned article have been reproduced above based on this copyright notice available at: 

©2007 ACM 0001-0782/07/1100 $5.00
Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. 
The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2007 ACM, Inc.]

--- end article notes and extracts ---

I congratulate Prof. Parnas and 'Communications of the ACM' publication for publishing this truth-telling viewpoint. IMHO, it allows interested and serious, public money grant administrators who are typically elected politicians serving as overseers of such grants (ministers in India) and their bureaucrats to ask top academic administrators (typically academics, in India) some vital questions about how they are spending public money to further the cause of proper academic research (similar issues, I am quite sure, will be there for other academic fields besides computer science). As the paper is from a distinguished professor and appears in a distinguished computer science publication, the academic administrators cannot dismiss the views contained in it easily. It also allows well meaning and serious academic administrators to reject wrong and harmful academic selection and promotion practices as well as academic institution accreditation and rating practices, which use publication counts as the vital measure without any qualified persons reading the related papers.

I think such a truth-telling paper/article appearing in a reputed academic publication does a fantastic service for promoting the cause of proper academic research, academic researcher honesty and even proper academic institution accreditation and grading procedures. I thank Prof. Parnas for writing it and 'Communications of the ACM' for publishing it.

1 comment:

Ravi S. Iyer, April 17, 2013 at 1:00 PM

I thought some readers may want to know that I sent a mail with mostly similar content to the above blog post to appropriate Indian government ministers, top academic administrators, some NAAC executive committee members etc., on April 13th 2013.

So far I have not received a substantive response from any of the addressees mentioned above.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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