Encounters with Impact


One of the recurring themes in discussions among mathematicians, whether in informal lunch hour talks or in more formal committees, is what might be called “simplistic impact-bashing.” We are more and more often facing words that seem totally foreign to us—impact, impact factor, excellence, etc.—and we feel no doubt somewhat like people who are too old to adapt to new technologies or new habits. However, despite this unanimity against them, these concepts seem inexorably to infiltrate every branch of our academic institutions, and progressively to invade the applications for financial support that we are ever more frequently required to fill out. It’s not rare to hear that there’s no point in fighting losing battles. This one is already lost, they say, and we must learn to live with the importance of “impact” in the world of “today.”

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