When you are reviewing papers for a journal, it is in your best interest to stake out papers most like your own as "acceptable for publication".
If it is a higher IF than you usually reach, you should argue for a manuscript that is somewhat below that journal's standard.
If it is a journal in which you have published, it is in your interest to crap on any manuscript that is lesser than your typical offerings.
It is sometimes easy to forget that the trainees do not have a boatload of their writing published yet.
Even if their way of phrasing it kind of sucks ass......there's that.
We most recently took up the issue of the Least Publishable Unit of science in the wake of a discussion about first authorships (although I've been talking about it on blog for some time). In that context, the benefit of having more, rather than fewer, papers emerging from a given laboratory group is that individual trainees have more chance of getting a first-author slot. Or they get more of them. This is highly important in a world where the first-author publications on the CV loom so large. Huge in fact.
I've also alluded to the fact that LPU tendencies are a benefit to the conduct of science (as a group enterprise) because it allows the faster communication of results, the inclusion of more methodological detail (critical for replication and extension) and potentially the inclusion of more negative outcomes (which saves the group time).
I have also staked my claim that in an era when most of us find, sort and organize literature with search engine tools from our desktop computers, the "costs" of the LPU approach are minimal.
The recent APS Observer reprinted a column in the NYT that I'd originally missed entitled "The Perils of 'Bite sized' Science" (MARCO BERTAMINI and MARCUS R. MUNAFÒ; Published: January 28, 2012 ). Woot! No offense, commentariat, but you've done a dismal job so far of making an argument for why the LPU approach is so bad or detrimental to the conduct of science, particularly in response to my reasons. So I was really stoked to see this, in hopes of gaining some insight. I was sadly disappointed. Continue Reading »
Reader jekka asks:
Are you advocating Least Publishable Unit papers here DM?
Naturally this comes with qualifiers. For now, however, I invite you to stretch yourself and
1) Define the Least Publishable Unit concept and manuscript type as cleanly as you can.
2) explain to me what the cost/problem/drawback is in the PubMed era.
Finally, please assure me that you have never cited a paper you consider an LPU, never allowed* such a turd to shape, motivate or inform your research and for goodness sake never polluted a grant application with any such thing.
*naturally, I have done all these things. Repeatedly.
and another thing. Going to PubMed to find some cite to support my logic chain because I don't have it in my reference manager database already doesn't break the flow either.
It enhances and reinforces the thrust of the point you are contemplating, and working on making concretely in academese, because you refresh yourself on all the relevant and irrelevant titles/abstract, perhaps find a new paper or two and remember an old one. That allows you to wrap up that paragraph or page in a trice so that you can move on.
Instead of spinning your wheels writing up a bunch of sheist that you later have to "revise" because your memory of the paper(s) that you thought supported a particular point was erroneous.
I will never, ever understand you people who "add the citations later".
Citing is an integral part of writing for me.