Competition between researchers has negative impact on research quality

A study by the King Baudouin Foundation, published on Tuesday, says that the majority of researchers in Belgian universities consider that competition within the research community has a negative impact on research quality.

This survey, conducted anongst 1,720 researchers, reveals that they are, above all, motivated by generating new knowledge. Besides being in competition, they also lament the constant quest for funding, which is considered to be problematic, as well as the lack of time to conduct their research.

As alluded to above, researchers are not working for money or an illustrious career, but are motivated by the willingness to generate new knowledge. This is revealed by the study. Thus, only 35% of respondents consider that their research should directly meet immediate societal needs, whilst 60% think the contrary. The contribution to the advances in scientific knowledge remains the prime motivating factor.

The results flag up a number of difficulties. Thus, 4 in 10 researchers find it difficult to achieve the right balance between the three academic tasks which form part of their job description: teaching, research and serving society. Some 54% of them consider that they do not have sufficient time to conduct research.

The researchers questioned also lament the high level of competitiveness, as well as the obligation to constantly look for funding. For 54.3% of respondents, competitiveness between researchers has a negative impact on research quality. Some 34.7% lament the lack of incentives for multidisciplinary and collaborative research. Finally, only 23.6% think that the level of public investment is sufficient to have a positive impact on quality. The large majority of researchers (84.7%), say that this scientific quality should be the determining criterion for both assessment of their research and its funding.

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