There is a larger systemic issue here that is tied to academic advancement and the career of professors. “High Impact” publications are one important piece to the puzzle of getting grant money, which in turn is money for the school, and in turn allows that professor to do research. Schools rely on these grants to fund their buildings and attract students and can take as much as 50–60% of a grant and leave the professor with only half the money. Sometimes schools require a professor to pay for their graduate students tuition as well instead of waiving the tuition (40–50k/year) so to support 1 graduate student doing research full time can be 70–80k/year out of a grant. A million dollar grant over five years is really like 400–500k over five years and can go quite quickly.

The competition for large grants that can make or break a research group is intense and the quality and number of publications from a grant is a measure of that grant’s success and future funding for that professor’s research group.

Thus publishing in Nature or Science or similar high impact journals is always going to be a top priority for professors and students. Further, having a Nature paper can be the deciding factor over getting a job in academia or staying a Post-Doc for another four years.

I don’t think Pre-Prints as this article suggests will fix the problem. In fact it might hurt someone in making their results no longer “novel” by the time a peer reviewer gets around to reading their actual paper if someone has published based on those pre-print results.

Also, if you made reviewers public then they wouldn’t be honest in their review because they are worried if they are too negative it would reduce their chances of getting future funding.

The Academic science world is in the end all about who can get the most grant money for the university. The sooner everyone realizes this the easier it will be to demonstrate value for academics outside of high value publications.

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Writer of The Polymerist newsletter. Talk to me about chemistry, polymers, plastics, sustainability, climate change, and the future of how we live.

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