Lifetime Publication Limit

What if everyone were allowed to publish just 20 articles in his/her entire scientific career?

Nature Medicine presents this paradigm-shifting (submit to EUREKA!) proposal as a solution to the power and money problems in scientific publishing. They offer an intriguing chain of events that might be set in motion:

“If we adopted this model, many articles reporting incremental advances would no longer be written, and many specialized journals would disappear. And with far fewer papers to read, each one reporting a much more complete piece of research, search committees or funding bodies could directly evaluate the work of a given scientist, instead of (as is often the case) leaning on surrogate indicators such as a journal’s impact factor or number of citations.”

The editors go on to recognize tweaks that would likely be required to accommodate this model … all interesting food for thought that whets the appetite for more. Perhaps recruiting institutions would look for those young promising scientists with plenty of allowed publications remaining versus those with bloated CVs. Ditto for sponsors – and the number of grant awards one PI could take on would be curtailed in parallel fashion. Eureka indeed.

1 Comment »

  1. whimple said

    metacomment: writedit, please check to make sure your hyperlinks are formatted correctly

    Nature Medicine’s idea is silly. You don’t have to read the entire paper, just the abstract will do fine in many cases. I’d much prefer to err on the side of too many papers published with not enough data at a higher frequency, than having to wait 5 years to get a result into press waiting for the rest of the story to develop. I don’t actually see the downside to the existence of a lot of papers in specialty journals.

    “with far fewer papers to read, each one reporting a much more complete piece of research, search committees or funding bodies could directly evaluate the work of a given scientist, instead of (as is often the case) leaning on surrogate indicators such as a journal’s impact factor or number of citations”

    This is fantasy. Committees and funding bodies aren’t going to read papers, especially if papers turn into books.

    It seems NM’s argument is that lots of little journals are too expensive for library subscriptions… something like requiring federally funded papers to be placed in the public domain six months (or whatever) after first publication would take care of that just fine. I don’t mind waiting six months for marginal work to become free, and it would still be faster than waiting for the book.

    Thanks for the heads-up. Please remember this is Nature Medicine, not Nature Molecular Cell Biology. I’m sure different Nature journal editors will have a different take. And remember too these are journal editors who have to find reviewers for all these articles, even if you just skim the abstracts. Of course it’s a fantasy – but they are fishing for feedback, so you should jump in at NM with your two cents. – writedit

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