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Rankings games


  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Margit Osterloh


Research rankings based on publications and citations today dominate governance of academia. Yet they have unintended side effects on individual scholars and academic institutions and can be counterproductive. They induce a substitution of the “taste for science” by a “taste for publication”. We suggest as alternatives careful selection and socialization of scholars, supplemented by periodic self-evaluations and awards. Neither should rankings be a basis for the distributions of funds within universities. Rather, qualified individual scholars should be supported by basic funds to be able to engage in new and unconventional research topics and methods.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno S. Frey & Margit Osterloh, 2011. "Rankings games," ECON - Working Papers 039, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:039

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sönke Albers, 2009. "Misleading Rankings of Research in Business," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 10, pages 352-363, August.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2004. "Fairness and Incentives in a Multi-task Principal-Agent Model," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 453-474, October.
    3. Claire Donovan, 2007. "The qualitative future of research evaluation," Science and Public Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(8), pages 585-597, October.
    4. Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, 1985. "Control: Organizational and Economic Approaches," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(2), pages 134-149, February.
    5. Butler, Linda, 2003. "Explaining Australia's increased share of ISI publications--the effects of a funding formula based on publication counts," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 143-155, January.
    6. Abernethy, Margaret A. & Brownell, Peter, 1997. "Management control systems in research and development organizations: The role of accounting, behavior and personnel controls," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 22(3-4), pages 233-248.
    7. Linda Butler, 2007. "Assessing university research: A plea for a balanced approach," Science and Public Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(8), pages 565-574, October.
    8. Universities-National Bureau Committee for Economic Research & Committee on Economic Growth of the Social Science Research Council, 1962. "The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number univ62-1, January.
    9. Richard Nelson, 1962. "Introduction to "The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors"," NBER Chapters,in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 1-16 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Michael Kosfeld & Armin Falk, 2006. "The Hidden Costs of Control," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1611-1630, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:esx:essedp:757 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. R�gibeau, P & Rockett, K, 2014. "A Tale of Two Metrics: Research Assessment vs Recognised Excellence," Economics Discussion Papers 14461, University of Essex, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Academic governance; rankings; motivation; selection; socialization;

    JEL classification:

    • A10 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - General
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • H83 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - Public Administration
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • M50 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - General

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