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Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the publish-or-perish dept.
sciencehabit writes Publishing is one of the most ballyhooed metrics of scientific careers, and every researcher hates to have a gap in that part of his or her CV. Here's some consolation: A new study finds that very few scientists—fewer than 1%—manage to publish a paper every year. But these 150,608 scientists dominate the research journals, having their names on 41% of all papers. Among the most highly cited work, this elite group can be found among the co-authors of 87% of papers. Students, meanwhile, may spend years on research that yields only one or a few papers. "[I]n these cases, the research system may be exploiting the work of millions of young scientists," the authors conclude.
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Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

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  • by jythie (914043) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @06:41PM (#47445073)
    Because they are not doing the best work. Often they are not doing any of the work, they simply have brand value.
  • by Idarubicin (579475) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (teiuqslla)> on Sunday July 13, 2014 @07:51PM (#47445365) Journal

    Given how relatively time-consuming research is(and how negative results, however valid, tend to have difficulty moving papers), it would be...surprising... to hear that one percent of the scientists are co-authoring 41 percent of the papers on sheer productivity.

    Actually, not so surprising, depending on how the analysis is done. And it also depends a lot on how you want to measure "sheer productivity". A supervisor who helps design the experiment, interpret the data, write the paper, and communicate with journal editors probably spends fewer hours than the trainee (grad student or postdoc) who actually does all the bench work--but that doesn't mean that the supervisor hasn't earned an authorship credit.

    If Alice, Bob, Carol, Dave, and Elsa are all graduate students in Dr. Frink's lab, and each of those students publishes two papers over the course of their PhD programs, then all of those students are going to be authors on 2 papers each, and Frink will be an author on 10 papers. Dr. Frink is 1 out of 6 scientists - a bit less than 17% - but is on 100% of the papers. If you have a big lab in a relatively hot (or well-funded) field, then your name is going to be on a lot of papers.

    And papers these days - especially the high-impact, widely-read, highly-cited papers - tend to have a longer list of authors. If you look at the table of contents [sciencemag.org] for the most recent issue of Science, the two Research Articles have 26 and 12 authors. Out of the dozen or so Reports, one has 4 authors, two have 5, all the rest have more. Speaking personally and anecdotally, my last three manuscripts (in the biomedical sciences) had 8, 3, and 7 authors.

    Going back to "1% of scientists are on 45% of papers"--well, if those are all six-author papers, then that top 1% is only responsible for a 7.5% share (45 divided by 6) of the "output". Given that there is a very long tail of authors who only have 1, 2, or 3 authorships in their lifetime (the majority of PhD graduates never end up conducting research as university faculty; there just aren't enough jobs), I am willing to believe that there is a small fraction of productive, top scientists whose names are on a disproportionately large share of papers.

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