View Full Version : Re: SCIENCE TODAY?

02-05-1999, 05:05 AM
Dear Biomch-L Readers,

> I found Dr. Mel Siff's comments on today's publication practice and
> the sarcastic (but not totally unrealistic) example provided very
> much to the point and agree wholeheartedly.
> Although it is recognized that, especially for young scientists, the
> pressure is considerable to produce large amounts of publications at
> all cost, it should also be remembered that a scientist will
> eventually be judged by the substance, creativity, and quality of his
> (her) contributions to a specific field.

I fully appreciated Dr. Siff's "publication" and totally agree with Prof. Hatze's comments, but being a "young
scientist" myself I would like to make a few comments.

As Prof. Hatze mentioned the pressure is high for young scientists (YS) to produce a lot of publications
regardless they are redundant or not. But I do not think the YS are to be blamed in the first place ...

1- For example, fundings to University Departments are proportional to the number of papers produced by each
Department: the more you write, the more you get. Is then "normal" that the Head of a Department puts the pressure
to get papers published. YS have little to say about this.

2- In some fields, redundant papers are almost normal (which does not mean I approved it!): you can see a paper with
a title like "Statistical results on the use of the Y technique on A patients". A few weeks later, you find a paper,
from the same authors untitled: "The Y technique applied on B patients: a statistical study". Such people have of
course resume with a very impressive number of papers. If you want to have a chance when you apply for a job in the
field, ... well it is very appealing to play the game. I can talk about this: I just applied for a position. One of
my serious "opponents" was somebody with such resume ... I do not know the result of the selection yet, but I can
imagine if I don't get the job, then I could think: "let's start to copy/paste the few publications I already made"
.. just kidding (though!).

3- Also, there are so many journals which coverage are really overlapping. I suppose it will be harder if there were
fewer journals where you could submit. Here again, YS have no control on this.

4- As a YS, it is very hard to resist the pressure coming from Senior fellows: you are young, must prove yourself
and if you're surrounded by people doing "scientific competition" as hobby, well I can understand you just do like
everybody else. Also, it is not always easy to say "NO" to a boss who is some kind of dictator! (note: this is
really not my case: I am working in a very healthy environment!).

So, in conclusions I would simply say:
First change the system and then blame the YS. The YS did not make the system and they are also in a difficult
position to alter it!


Serge VAN SINT JAN, Ph.D. | In sabbatical from:
School of Computing Sciences | Department of Human Anatomy and Embryology
De Montfort University | University of Brussels, Belgium
Hammerwood Gate |
Milton Keynes MK7 6HP - UK
phone: + 44 1908 695511 (ext. 4146)
+ 44 1908 834933
fax: + 44 1908 834948
email: sintjans@dmu.ac.uk
WWW: http://homepages.ulb.ac.be/~sintjans

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