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The Concept of «publish Or Perish» Problem

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Words: 1589 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2020

Words: 1589|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2020

Table of contents

  1. Historical background
  2. Stakeholders
    Ethical dilemmas
    Status of the case
  3. Discussion

This collocation is getting more popular day by day. Almost every person that is connected to science has heard about it or faced it at least once. But what does it mean? Why is everyone speaking about it? And why is it such a big problem? What can be done to deal with it? While working on the assignment I was trying to find answers to these questions.

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According to the Wikipedia, «Publish or perish» can be defined as «a phrase coined to describe the pressure in academia to rapidly and continually publish academic work to sustain or further one's career». While it sounds rather innocent, it is well-known that a publication in an academic journal is essential for every scientist. It serves a lot of different purposes. Firstly, the publication is the most visible result of a scientist’s work. Secondly, it is the best way to share your data with the scientific community. However, a lot of scientists are suffering under the pressure to publish their research data. The «Publish or perish» problem is becoming more and more dangerous as an amount of published papers is growing.

Historical background

The pressure to publish data has not always been so high. As it is known, however, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The very first person who decided to put all recent scientific discoveries together was Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society. Royal Society is a famous «independent scientific academy», founded in 1660 in the UK. Hereby, Henry Oldenburg’s Philosophical Transactions was published in 1665 as a monthly overview of all the new data. Initially, the journal was published as his personal undertaking. However, in 1752 the Philosophical Transactions became an official journal of the Royal Society, still leaded by Henry Oldenburg. Ever since it has been getting more and more popular among scientists, and nowadays it is separated to Philosophical Transactions A and Philosophical Transactions B. Dedicated to physical and biological sciences, respectively.

Stakeholders

Publishing research is a very complicated process with a variety of stakeholders. They are involved in almost every stage of the process. Furthermore, underlying relationships between main stakeholders play an important role in the problem of «Publish or perish». In this way, understanding of each stakeholder’s aims is significant to get to the crux of the matter.

A publisher is one of the primary stakeholders as he is responsible for journal’s reputation, its circulation, and income. For this reason, publisher seeks to print only scientifically accurate trend-setting papers, which would catch media attention. To accomplish that there is a special sequence of procedures, involving efforts of an editor, associate editor, and reviewers. The higher Impact factor of the journal is the more demanding is a publisher.

A reviewer is heavily involved in the process of publishing a paper. He examines an article from a scientific point view. By evaluating it in the light of a set of criteria, such as relevance for science or presence of unethical actions. The publisher also has to make sure all experiments suit the purpose of a research and not any data is taken for granted. Otherwise, there can be unavoidable by-effects if inaccuracy would be found in the already published paper. The Staple case is a good example of a situation then data falsification and unethical work were discovered in the published journal.

The author is the one who suffers from the «Publish or perish» situation the most. On the one hand, being published is the best way to share your data and get positive recognition. On the other hand, however, the pressure to publish research data causes stress and an unhealthy work environment.

An academic institution is another primary stakeholder. Because of budgetary pressure, institutions must depend on prestige to attract financial support and research funding. In order to do it, they are trying to get recognized and visible in prestigious journals.

The Scientific society is a stakeholder who benefits most in the situation. «Publish or perish» leads to the enormous amount of published research giving the society access to a large amount of new knowledge.

Ethical dilemmas

The variety of stakeholders leads to a range of ethical dilemmas. Each stakeholder has a choice to do a right thing or look for benefits. Therefore, the pressure inflicted by «Publish or perish» creates high risks for scientific integrity. The list of possible consequences is extensive. The most obvious things are Salami slicing and Cherry picking. It means that scientists tend to slice up the data for the purpose of getting more than one publication on the particular topic and, at the same time, they are known to massage their data in order to pick only that which is relevant for their research findings. Aside from this, such thing as multiplication of authorship is assumed to be one most pervasive problem. Scientists join different articles as co-authors, or guest authors with the intention to increase publication credits. There is thus an opportunity for scientific integrity to be even more compromised. Scientific journals, however, are more likely to publish research with positive results in order to boost citations. This selectivity is called Publication Bias.

Beside this, peer reviewers also should be mentioned. There are a lot of cases where a reviewer recommends to reject a paper for some reason. However, after a little while, his/her team publishes a paper almost similar to the rejected one. As a result, the peer reviewer’s team is known to be the first one who published a paper dedicated to the problem. It seems clear that unethical behavior causes problems and complexities to be disentangled. The consequences are severe for each stakeholder. A scientist can lose his/her reputation and, as a result, a research position. Journals, however, might miss publication dates and profits because of an investigation into unethical conduct, but worst of all, they also may lose credibility if they published a paper with inaccurate data. The scientific society also has to be mentioned. Readers of journals are the true victims of the situation. Most people still assume that all published data can be trustworthy. Inaccurate research leads to ill-informed readers. If research is based upon the inaccurate date this will lead to wasted time and money.

Status of the case

For the last couple of years the problem of «Publish or Perish» has been influencing the scientific society a lot. The system forces researchers and students to face different kinds of ethical dilemmas. There are a lot of cases where Ph. D. students have been caught for fraudulent methods pertaining to their need to get a publication in order to finish his/her degree. However, not only students mess with their data, but also mature, well known scientists. Besides this, the whole principal of «Publish or perish» forces people to chase after publications and citations, rushing their work and making them more prone to mistakes. There were some attempts to put into practice a new system of evaluation of scientific research and papers. The new system is based on different characteristics including societal impact. However, despite this new system, scientists are still ranked by their publications in high-impact journals and a number of citations. Things like significance for economic and society, in general, are not taken into account. Aside from this, governments, foundations and private companies are also using the estimation of scientific quality based on principles of publications and citations in case of distribution research fundings.

Discussion

I think, the system of «publish or perish» is not just one of the vestiges from the past, but also a great example of a good intention that has gotten out of control. The system that should have helped to estimate or rank scientists, to identify the successful ones became a sword of Damocles that is hanged over every scientist in the world and ready to punish anyone who is not respecting the system. In order to succeed in the «Publish or perish» world a scientist must solely have positive research data paired with successful experiments. However, it is always very difficult to prevent mistakes. We should not forget that to err is human! The «Publish or perish» dilemma is a major threat to scientific integrity. Worst of all, weaknesses inherent to all human beings (for example, thirst for glory and money, etc. ) are being used against humans themselves. In my opinion, there is no winner in this situation, none of the stakeholders may be considered as the winning side. As long as all of them are heavily involved in the process of publishing a research and facing different moral dilemmas, the wrong choice of one stakeholder can easily cause problems for the rest of them.

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The Scientific society has to take special care of the «Publish or perish» problem. Which implies that the above-mentioned cause-effect relationships between the stakeholders and their dilemmas should be taken into consideration. Otherwise, we cannot expect any changes in the near future. In my opinion, there is a rational solution to the dilemmas created by “Publish or perish”. The scientific community should propose a new system of evaluation and benefit sharing. The new system can be based on past experience. Reasonable ranking on the basis of publications, which is taken from «Publish or Perish» system, on one hand, and societal impact from the above-mentioned failed system as one of the evaluation factors, on the other hand. To conclude, while we cannot forecast the future, for the sake of the scientific community’s credibility and integrity it is necessary to find a solution to the problem of “Publish or perish”.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

The Concept Of «Publish Or Perish» Problem. (2020, March 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-concept-of-publish-or-perish-problem/
“The Concept Of «Publish Or Perish» Problem.” GradesFixer, 16 Mar. 2020, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-concept-of-publish-or-perish-problem/
The Concept Of «Publish Or Perish» Problem. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-concept-of-publish-or-perish-problem/> [Accessed 12 Jun. 2024].
The Concept Of «Publish Or Perish» Problem [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Mar 16 [cited 2024 Jun 12]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-concept-of-publish-or-perish-problem/
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