I enjoyed reading the Issues & Events piece “Global movement to reform researcher assessment gains traction” by Toni Feder (Physics Today, October 2023, page 22). I obtained my PhD in the mid 1990s, and since that time I have heard various degrees of dissatisfaction with faculty evaluation processes. It was nice to see the topic discussed in Physics Today.

While it is important to consider a wide range of contributions when assessing research faculty, I would like to speak out against including social impact and entrepreneurship among the factors considered. Research scientists and institutions ought to achieve their influence and status through their contributions to the altruistic endeavors of knowledge creation (research) and knowledge preservation (education).

Entrepreneurship is frequently antithetical to those goals and is instead aimed at the creation of profit-making enterprises. Likewise, “social impact,” as it is normally construed, relates to influencing systems of power and the allocation of resources. While those endeavors are certainly important, they should be distinguished from the research goals of knowledge creation and preservation.

I like that Feder’s piece discusses the role of objectively defined metrics versus subjectively defined expert judgment. Both kinds of evaluation are important. By working together and communicating in an open and respectful manner, we can build and sustain the kinds of institutions we want to work in.

Physics Today