COMPASS: navigating the rules of scientific engagement

In an era of heightened competition for scarce research positions and funding, the mantra of modern academia—“publish or perish”—continues to intensify [1]. Scientists are under increasing pressure to produce as many publications as possible in “high-impact” journals to raise their profile among peers and influence their discipline. Yet, in recent years, another measure of significance also has been on the rise—one that focuses on a scientist’s reach beyond their field and captures societal impact [2].

More than a decade ago, Jane Lubchenco (a marine ecologist who recently stepped down as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) codified the idea of a “new social contract for science” [3]. She asserted that society expects two outcomes from its investment of public funds in science: “the production of the best possible science and the production of something useful.” Lubchenco challenged scientists to consider not only making their research relevant to today’s most pressing problems, but also to embrace their responsibility to share their findings. She urged them to invoke “the full power of the scientific enterprise in communicating existing and new understanding to the public and to policymakers, and in helping society move toward sustainability through a better understanding of the consequences of policy action—or inactions.”

Smith B., Baron N., English C., Galindo H., Goldman E., McLeod K., Miner M. & Neeley E., 2013. COMPASS: navigating the rules of scientific engagement . PLoS Biology 11(4): e1001552. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001552. Article.

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