Afraid of cheating: Professor at the University of Tromsø, Curt Rice (right), is afraid that the proposed changes in the funding of colleges and universities can open for monetary cheating. Here with research director of Statistics Norway, Torbjørn Hægeland (left), who has led the expert group that drafted the report.
Afraid of cheating: Professor at the University of Tromsø, Curt Rice (right), is afraid that the proposed changes in the funding of colleges and universities can open for monetary cheating. Here with research director of Statistics Norway, Torbjørn Hægeland (left), who has led the expert group that drafted the report.

New system can lead to corruption

A new report proposes a change in the financing of higher educational institutions. – The system can be misused, warns Professor Curt Rice.

– The proposal presented by the expert group does not make sense, says professor Curt Rice at the University of Tromsø to Universitas.

On January 7th, the Minister of Education and Research Torbjørn Røe Isaksen handed over the report he ordered last year on the financing of higher education. Especially one of the proposals made Professor Rice react: while a publication currently provides the same number of publishing points regardless of the number of authors, the commission proposes that more points should be given if there are several co-authors (see fact box). Rice fears this will make corruption tempting in the form of author inflation, since educational institutions will benefit from crediting several authors in a publication.

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Vulnerable system

– If a large group is working together it’s not always clear who should be listed as authors. The new proposal will affect this decision making process in favour of having as many collaborators as possible, says Rice.

The head of the expert group, Torbjørn Hægeland, believes the current funding model in many ways is working well.

– But we have some challenges. That is why we are making some adjustments, he says.

Hægeland believes one must be able to trust the scientific community and that the new proposal is not problematic.

– We assume the academic staff is not corrupt, says Hægeland.

Encouraging cooperation

The head of the expert group believes it’s important to emphasize that the proposal does not finance individuals but institutions. He also holds that it’s up to the institutions themselves to allocate funds internally.

– I therefore do not believe that the incentive to add non-real writers is strong. Our wish is to reward cooperation and co-publication, and we believe that our proposal is the best means of doing that, says Hægeland.

Rice believes that the scheme is problematic because several institutions are sending money down the system, which may lead research groups to experience strong motivation to increase their production points.

– Author inflation is a natural consequence of such an incentive system, says Rice.

Unfathomable system

Rice also criticizes the new system of being incoherent and not user friendly.

– The proposal the expert group have submitted is saying first that a publication is worth a certain number of points. Then they say that the value is changed by the number of authors, says Rice.

He believes the expert group must stick to one variation, calling the two proposals conflicting by nature. Rice requests a simple and understandable system.

– Preferably with one dimension, where the points are shared between Norwegian authors. It will reward research output and international cooperation.

Public hearing

Hægeland on his side, believes the new model will stimulate cooperation, both nationally and internationally.

– Overall, we believe that our proposal for funding provides an improvement on the current system, he says.

The Ministry of Education and Research awaits the formal hearing process on February 9th before commenting on the proposal.

Translated by Louise Faldalen Prytz