The Pressure To Publish Promotes Disreputable Science

The pressure on university scientists to publish research papers in great quantity is relentless; and themotive behind it is clear. More papers mean more prestige for a researcher’s department—and the prestige will translate, department heads hope, into more financial support from the university. Unfortunately, this pressure is likely to prompt disreputable, unethical, and even fraudulent publication practices. At the very least, the pressure encourages scientists to adjust their p

Ag Wheeler
Jul 9, 1989

The pressure on university scientists to publish research papers in great quantity is relentless; and themotive behind it is clear. More papers mean more prestige for a researcher’s department—and the prestige will translate, department heads hope, into more financial support from the university. Unfortunately, this pressure is likely to prompt disreputable, unethical, and even fraudulent publication practices. At the very least, the pressure encourages scientists to adjust their priorities, putting more important work off in order to-prepare for publication material that otherwise would not be submitted.

Of course, there are those who sincerely hold that quantity of scientific publication can be equated with quality of scientific achievement. But there is a fallacy in this logic: An increase in the number of publications per author actually can be attributed not so much to greater productivity, but to changes in the way researchers publish.

There is, to be sure, a positive side...