Scientific publishing for non-scientists

5 thoughts on “Scientific publishing for non-scientists”

  1. Raghu, this is a thoughtful post but you present a view that is too idealistic. Surely your #5/6–essentially “scientists try publish in Nature/Science/Cell so NIH will fund them”–is an order or two of magnitude more dominant than the other reasons!
    Followed in importance by “scientists publish their research so they can become famous, at least in their field.”

    1. Thanks. Yes, the list is not ranked! I’ll try to comment later on a depressing presentation from NIH, on how they’re quite explicitly using “publications per dollar” and “citations per dollar” as a way to assess programs. It’s much easier, of course, than actually assessing science!

  2. Now at the U of O, we can add “publish so that Associate Deans and Department Heads do not consider them research inactive and tell them to teach more classes”.

    I think publication units should be much smaller. Right now we forgive a paper for not being completely convincing on a a gene being required when the data show convincingly that it is sufficient for a phenotype, or just that the broad conclusion is exciting. If a publishable unit was a single declarative statement then full attention could be brought to each incremental unit of discovery. These units could be easily linked by reviews. Plus, it would allow groups to work on aspects they are good at, so could efficiently churn out results showing transcriptional up regulation of a gene without having to get those pesky Western blots working to show protein levels increase as well.

    1. Good point — it does seem like papers (especially in Biology) require a giant amount of “stuff,” with a preference for lots of weak data over a little strong data. (Why? I don’t know.) Your suggestion, though, would lead to *even more* papers being published than the present downpour, if people cut their papers into many smaller pieces. Of course, perhaps:

      (i) the length of each paper would be shorter, so the total number of published pages would be the same, and

      (ii) people would unlearn the “lessons” of modern-day publishing and only put out robust little pieces, not publishing the weak little pieces.

      I think (i) might happen, but it might be outweighed by having *lots* of abstracts to wade through, and I’m skeptical of (ii) happening.

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