Now as my university is building a reward system, I need to voice my concerns on reward systems.
First, how do you judge what is good research? One might not be able to comprehend the value of research beforehand. As an example, could anyone at George Boole’s time predict the importance of his work on mathematical logic? Moreover, if the criteria for the rewards is likely to guide the research. What if the criteria is such that it does not courage for the novel research?
Second, it seems that external rewards can have demotivating effect. Jesper Juul (in a different context) writes:
A famous 1973 experiment (“Undermining children’s intrinsic interest with extrinsic reward“) showed that when nursery school children consistently received external rewards for drawing, they lost interest in drawing and started drawing less.
Are adults different from children regarding this?
Third, other studies indicate that rewards are good in simple tasks, but the performance drastically drop when a reward is introduced if the task requires reasoning (I cannot find the references now, but some are mentioned in Dan Pink’s talk).
I hope I am wrong here, because if these concerns are valid we are misdirecting our scarce resources.