Thursday, September 8, 2016

Science is broken III

I find it surprising that is almost three years since I my last post on this topic. I guess I try not to be too negative too often...

Vox has a very long article, The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists. It is worth reading and I largely agree with it. Possible concrete solutions are discussed. Many of the issues I have discussed on this blog and so it is both encouraging and discouraging to see others voice the same concerns.

I think a significant positive change would occur if the luxury journals (especially the pernicious Nature Publishing Group) were banned/boycotted and put out of business.

Funding agencies could simply say you can't use our money to do research that you publish in them. And in future applications you can't list any such publications from before 2017 on your CV.

I know it is not going to happen. But we do need to at least acknowledge that if it did that a lot of problems would be diminished.

12 comments:

  1. Haven't read the Vox article yet, but on your comment about the Nature Publishing Group: I'm not sure this would solve anything. There are quite a bit of other "higher than PRL" journals with glossy stuff. (Though not the editorials, news and views pieces etc, that come with Nature journals.)
    Wiley (Advanced Materials etc), ACS (Nano Letters) publish a lot of stuff that raises my eyebrows. And their impact factor (one of the root causes of the troubles because it incorrectly influences how people think on where to submit) is double that of PRL and only half of that of Nature journals (PRL 8, NanoLetters 15, Nature 30 - order of magnitude).

    So culling one side won't do much; it'll just propel another journal forward in this game.

    I think your remark on funding agencies would be much more effective; in the end people play the game because they need money to survive. Having funding agencies recognize this issue and refocus on the highest quality science would go a long way to dial back this behavior.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Seems even APS has similar initiatives like PRX. PRL is also going down that way. The basic problem may be that there are simply too many researchers ! Reduce the number by half may mitigate or solve lots of the problems.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Misspelling. The comment was: Are you retired? If not, volunteer yourself before others.

      Delete
    2. I also hate the luxuries. But if you want to suggest this and are a working scientist, then you should start where you can: by action.

      Delete
    3. Lead by example or not at all.

      Delete
    4. My comments may be better understood in context as described in the following two articles:
      1. http://www.pnas.org/content/111/16/5773
      2. http://www.pnas.org/content/113/34/9384.full

      BTW, I'm a working scientist and have no interest in those 'luxury' journals, not even in 'hot' topics.

      Delete
  3. Indeed, I am wondering about PRX.
    I still feel that PRL focuses much more on physics content (advancing science) than others - though more and more "flashy-only" papers slip through indeed.


    BTW, regarding your mitigation suggestion: do you volunteer? (joking)
    I think this would only work if the funding levels would not decrease by the same amount - otherwise the competition would not relent, and the result would not change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My comments may be better understood in context as described in the following two articles:
      1. http://www.pnas.org/content/111/16/5773
      2. http://www.pnas.org/content/113/34/9384.full

      BTW, I'm a working scientist and have no interest in those 'luxury' journals, not even in 'hot' topics.

      Delete
  4. Jokes (or seriousness) aside, I want to re-emphasize that the "leading action" by removing oneself from the pool likely won't change things - there's no way that funding would not go down in this hypothetical case.
    I think dr. McKenzie hits the nail on the head with his funding agency remark.
    But who does dare to tell them this - especially when not being proficient in publishing in these flashy journals - i.e. who dares to lead by example without looking like a sulking loser.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. In Science, or any Service
      its a pain to deal with civilian leadership.
      Preparedness
      to go down with the ship, or sacrifice crew
      in defence of the Mission
      is what separates the Captains from other fools
      wearing funny hats.
      :-)

      Delete
  5. Thanks for the comments.
    I agree that the problem not just Nature Publishing Group. (Although, they are certainly the "leaders").
    The other journals mentioned above are a problem too and should be put out of business to.

    Basically, I would like funding agencies to say you have to publish in solid professional society journals such as Physical Review A-E, J. Chem. Phys., and non-glossy ACS journals.

    Personally, this is what I have decided to do. Of course, some might say I just don't do anything that is "good" enough for the luxury journals.

    ReplyDelete