[Air-L] Fwd: 'Publish or perish' factor in spiralling retractions - Thomson Reuters analysis

Michael Baron webbaron at gmail.com
Fri Aug 21 18:24:35 PDT 2009

This is so true! I have been looking at some of the lecturing jobs
advertised in Australia and for senior lecturer positions a requirement of
20 double-refereed publications is normal. I am curious if some great
economist or philosopher (e.g. Nietzche, Sokrates etc.) would be able to get
a university lecturing job not to mention becoming a professor :). If
someone does not have a ph.d - chances of getting any kind of permanent
academic appointment are minimal. With a ph.d but without an ''expected''
number of publications - one can never progress beyond a certain level.

Research output is being measured on the basis of quantity of the
publications/conference presentations rather than quality (asl long as
publications/conference papers are double refereed). It took Albert Einstein
1 paper to to explain his theory of relativity. Now lets imagine Albert
working in a contemporary university environment. Rather than publish this
one paper he would instead have to produce 5 papers titled: 1) Relativity
Case studies: the German Experience 2) 3-Country relativity comparison 3)
Relativity in Papua New Gunea (probably woud be a joint publication with a
Gunean Ph.D student of his) 4) Quantitative relativity assessment methods in
Portugal (joint publication with a Portugese colleague) 5) Impact of
relativity laws on women from non-English speaking background (Joint paper
with someone from a center of Women Studies)

This would give Albert a far greater research output and therefore better
career opportunities.

I keep asking myself ''Who reads all the research papers'....other than
other researchers and students who need to use them for assignments/their
own research"?

As well as uni teaching, I have been involved in several Business
Analysis/IT projects (as a consultant/Project Manager). My ongoing
interaction with industry professionals has taught me that: Industry
professional read white papers, manuals etc. but NEVER the academic papers.

Another question is...can someone seriously imagine an academic producing 20
original publications a year?  Yet, some people publish more than that! The
pressure to produce more papers results in completely idiotic publications
such as for example (this is not a real paper just an example :))
''Longtitudonal studies of C++ Programming Techniques in France in
1997-2002'' why in France? because it makes is possible to publish another
paper of similar nature 2 months later titled "C++ programming techniques in
Spain" and 1 month later ''Comparing C++ programming Techniques in France
and Spain" By the way, C++ is just a programming language :) so programming
techniques are very much the same worldwide...and it is already common
knowledge :). Am i exaggirating the problem? May be I am, but just a little

60 years ago, when my grandfather was a university student - every single
professor that he was having in his university was known for some kind of
research-related achievements. Today, If you ask coursework university
students what their lecturers are famous for...few will be able to answer.

To be very honest, when writing about uselessness of majority of the
academic publications..i am writing (among other things) about my own
experiences. I have found reading some academic  papers very useful for my
ph.d, masters and other academic studies. But as someone who had to read a
lot of academic papers recently - I had a chance to discover for myself -
less than 10% of the papers published in my research area are actually
original/groundbreaking in any way at all.

However, if research performance of academics will continue to be assessed
on the basis of the quantity of the papers published. I am sure some people
will soon be producing more 100 papers a year :). Hey, its possible to write
a new newspaper article a day (thats what many journalists are required to
do as part of their jobs). So why not a research paper a day?

On Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 5:13 PM, jeremy hunsinger <jhuns at vt.edu> wrote:

> Begin forwarded message:
>  From: Karen Weaver <melvil4u at GMAIL.COM>
>> Date: August 21, 2009 7:23:28 PM EDT
>> Subject: 'Publish or perish' factor in spiralling retractions - Thomson
>> Reuters analysis
>> Reply-To: Open Lib/Info Sci Education Forum <JESSE at LISTSERV.UTK.EDU>
>> 'Publish or perish' factor in spiralling retractions
>> Retractions up tenfold
>> http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=407838&c=2
>> 20 August 2009
>> By Zoë Corbyn
>> Excerpts from the full article linked above / best, kw
>> ..."The rate at which scientific journal articles are being retracted has
>> increased roughly tenfold over the past two decades, an exclusive analysis
>> for Times Higher Education reveals." ...
>> ..."Growth in research fraud as a result of greater pressure on
>> researchers to publish, improved detection and demands on editors to take
>> action have been raised as possible factors in the change." ...
>> ..."The study, by the academic-data provider Thomson Reuters, follows the
>> retraction last month of a paper on the creation of sperm from human
>> embryonic stem cells." ...
>> ..."The Thomson Reuters analysis charts the number of peer-reviewed
>> scientific-journal articles produced each year from 1990 and the number of
>> retractions."...
>> "It shows that over nearly 20 years the number of articles produced has
>> doubled, but the number of retractions - still a small fraction of the
>> literature - has increased 20 times. This is equal to a tenfold increase,
>> factoring in the growth of articles."...
>> ..."The data are extracted from the Thomson Reuters Web of Science
>> citation database, and apply to the journals covered by its Science Citation
>> Index Expanded."
>> ..."Whereas in 1990, just five of the nearly 690,000 journal articles that
>> were produced worldwide were retracted, last year the figure was 95 of the
>> 1.4 million papers published." ...       Please see COMPLETE article linked
>> above / kw
>> ------------------------------
>> Karen Weaver, MLS, Adjunct Faculty, Cataloging & Classification, The
>> iSchool at Drexel University, College of Information Science & Technology,
>> Philadelphia PA email: karen.weaver at ischool.drexel.edu / Electronic
>> Resources Statistician, Duquesne University, Gumberg Library, Pittsburgh PA
>> email: weaverk at duq.edu
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