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Encourage peer-reviewed publications by tracking productivity

Encourage DOJ research staff to collaborate with outside experts and produce peer-reviewed academic journal-quality research by holding each agency accountable for the number of publications in refereed journals, the rate per research staff, or other standard scholarship-rating metrics commonly used in the scientific community to create objective rankings of scholarly production. This style of accountability is standard in the scientific/academic community and lends itself well to the goal of fostering objective and high quality research. This is already the standard in several other federal agencies such as CDC, NIH, NIST, Education as well as the uniformed services. In the U.S. Public Health Service, for example, research officers must demonstrate scholarly production in order to promote. If researchers and especially bureaus in DOJ were held accountable for producing quality scientific publications, then executives would more strongly support requests for collaboration with outside scholars, and allow research time and freedom to pursue intelligent and cutting edge questions. Likewise, it would encourage proactive effort by researchers to contact, interact with, and pursue collaboration with outside experts who can help them frame better questions, build better models, or build better interpretations of their models. My experience has been that collaboration with outside experts in terms of presentations and publications is strongly restricted. And this is true of collaboration with other agencies or departments in our own agency as well. This makes sense in terms of sensitive information. But a substantial amount of the restriction may be related to public perception management/public affairs rather than issues of security/safety/sensitive information. Yet we often don’t allow collaboration with outside scholars even if these are with world renown experts asking benign questions. In part, this is because the benefits of research (i.e., scientific reputation, recruitment of new quality researchers, creation of critical information to guide policy) is not weighted nearly as heavily as what executives see as risks: that something negative may come to light for which GAO / OIG / the press might get upset. Because DOJ does not have a structure in place to measure scholarship of bureaus or staff, and because DOJ does not hold Bureaus accountable for scholarly-production, we see a culture developing which undervalues sharing information or collaborating, but instead shows disinterest in pursuing collaborations and sharing researcher findings (either within DOJ agencies, or with the scientific community). Again, logistically, I would borrow the procedures and regulations already existing within federal agencies that have strong and productive research platforms, such as PHS, CDC, and Department of Labor.

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Idea No. 86