Correspondence

Nature 463, 1018 (25 February 2010) | doi:10.1038/4631018d; Published online 24 February 2010

Skewed assessment values have stifled textbook-writing

Tristram D. Wyatt1

  1. Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
    Email: tristram.wyatt@zoo.ox.ac.uk

I welcome your Editorial encouraging career recognition for writers of science books (Nature 463, 588; 2010). But nothing will change for British scientists unless books are properly valued within the new Research Excellence Framework, which assesses the quality of research in UK higher-education institutions.

Under the previous system, the Research Assessment Exercise, a 400-page peer-reviewed science textbook was allocated the same value as a single journal article. It made no difference if the book was cited hundreds of times and well-reviewed in academic journals. I must declare an interest: I wrote such a book (Pheromones and Animal Behaviour Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003). Concerns about the chilling effects on textbook-writing by British academics have been highlighted before, to no avail (see, for example, http://go.nature.com/nmq3Vq).

The scientists finalizing the new rules have the power to change the criteria and give textbook-writing more recognition. I hope they will.

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