Judge The Work By Its Quality

July 8, 2013

Let us stroll down the laurelled lanes of academia for a moment and gaze at the mountains of published articles in academic journals. If you have ever stepped into a university library or searched through an academic database, you will realize that most of these articles probably do not get read. The purpose of being published is being read, correct? The technical answer is yes, but really the answer is no. William M. Briggs takes a jab at academic publishing in his blog post, “Scientists Discover Way To Increase Publication.” Being published is a means as survival for many academics, but there is an overwhelming (and alarming) status quo: only good news hits the ink.

This methodology causes false facts to be considered truth. Briggs brings up the “Trust In Science Would Be Improved By Study Pre-Registration” signed by more than eighty signatories and for the scientific community to require pre-registration for publishing before results are in. The idea is that journals would publish whatever the results and reduce the amount of “making a piece publishable” thought processes.

Briggs does not think that is the solution:

“There will be a minor flood of papers pre-registering sketchy theories, and these will be all that is remembered. Some authors will publish their negative results, but many will forget them and move on to more fertile grounds. The bulk of these maybe-so works will be taken as positive evidence even if positive effects are never found or if negative effects are published.”

More papers will be published, but the rate of them being read is even lower because there will be too many. Briggs wants people to judge a paper by its quality and not the quantity. How often have we heard this before? An idealist hope, but not impossible—almost though. What questions can we draw about integrity? Just remember to always question and do research on your own.

Whitney Grace, July 08, 2013

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