Do you have any “helper” around you? Maybe are you one yourself? “Helpers” are those researchers who regularly provide valuable feedback to their colleagues’ manuscripts and to scientific discussions. Who regard this feedback as part of the research, and a part of their working tasks. However, their input is awarded as best with their names in the acknowledgement of the publication, and not that often in the author field.
Alexander Oettl, a professor in Immunology at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA, studied the effect of “helpers” by comparing their colleagues’ impact of papers (IF of journals, n publications and citations) before and after the “helpers” involvement. What he found was a clear positive effect of the involvement of the “helpers” for their colleague’s publications.
The question is – how are these helpers awarded? In evaluations of applications for academic positions and research grants, factors as large numbers of highly cited papers get higher rates than increasing over all scientific quality in the group or at the department. Perhaps it’s time for a new metric to take into account – average acknowledgements per year?