The doyenne of all that is prof-blogging has a first rank take down of some idiocy posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education. A handful of professors of English, mechanical engineering, medicine, management, and geography have concluded that the greatest threat to our body scientifique is that:
the amount of redundant, inconsequential, and outright poor research has swelled in recent decades, filling countless pages in journals and monographs.
I mean seriously. This is a huge (HUGE!!!11!!!) problem, is it not?
Even if read, many articles that are not cited by anyone would seem to contain little useful information. The avalanche of ignored research has a profoundly damaging effect on the enterprise as a whole. Not only does the uncited work itself require years of field and library or laboratory research. It also requires colleagues to read it and provide feedback, as well as reviewers to evaluate it formally for publication. Then, once it is published, it joins the multitudes of other, related publications that researchers must read and evaluate for relevance to their own work. Reviewer time and energy requirements multiply by the year. The impact strikes at the heart of academe.
sourceI'm not going to take on all of their strained points, FSP has done a great job and a commenter going by jabberwocky is just slaying in the comments at the Chronicle (no links but page to comment 4 and 16).
The authors suggested change is basically to expand the format of GlamourMag science to everything. Shorter papers with supplemental materials online. Fewer papers that encompass a greater amount of actual work and data (albeit without actually showing much of it). Only publishing in higher impact factor journals.
One of the things they seem to be overlooking, and a thing that is one of my most sustained criticisms of GlamourMag science, is this. When you don't show your work, when all the effort that went into validating, closing off dead alleys, verifying reagents, refining techniques is invisible...
Somebody. Else. Is. Going. To. Have. To. Repeat. It. At. Great. Expense. In. Time. And. Money.
I know, I know. These idiots over at the Chronicle think that they can magically predict a priori what anyone else is ever going to be interested in but this is totally and completely off base. I look at threads of data or research all the time from 5, 10 or 30 years past that never got much attention. Never got cited. And sometimes it helps me with my present work. Sometimes the fact that it is invisible explains why there is a whole mini-area of research going off the wrong way. Sometimes I know of data that never got published for one reason or another that re-directs the foundering research of someone in my lab or elsewhere.
All of this suggests to me that efforts to further reduce the public and accessible appearance of data that has been generated by the research community, are very much to the future detriment of science.
I mean honestly. Have these clowns never heard of PubMed? How hard is it to synthesize the figures that you are really interested in from five papers instead of two? I do not find this to be the major impediment to my ability to understand my scientific field. I really don't.