It’s a Dog-Eat-Dog World
Does the “publish or perish” mindset create a space for predators to flourish?
I was recently invited to be a keynote speaker at a diagnostics conference. Shortly before that, I received an invitation to submit my thesis (or any other manuscripts I’d written since) to a prestigious science and medical publisher. And before that, I was asked if I would like to participate as an invited speaker at an ophthalmology-themed event. It seems my career as a leading scientist is taking off – or is it?
Our cover feature this month deals with predatory journals and conferences. Although the piece addresses their effect on pathology and laboratory medicine, similar vultures circle above every field of scientific and medical advancement. Why? In part because many careers are built on prestige; having a range of publications can bring name recognition – valuable currency in an age when most research is built on collaboration. In part because academia is largely built upon the “publish or perish” mindset, which makes journal articles and conference appearances a key part of pay increases, promotion, and tenure. And perhaps in part because some researchers find it more difficult than others to make their voices heard – for instance, those who work in resource-limited settings; those not fluent in English, the language of most publications and events; or those whose work focuses on obscure or difficult-to-fund subjects. Given these pressures, it’s no surprise to find publishers and conferences who target these vulnerable academics.
For many, these predatory groups confer no real benefit. Articles published in for-profit journals often receive negative, rather than positive, attention. Speakers associated with predatory conferences may lose stature in academic circles – and may, in the future, find their identities used to promote further predatory events of which they have no knowledge!
We can all unhappily discuss the harm that such groups can do to academic communities, and what each of us can do to avoid falling prey to them. But we must ask ourselves: are these predators the problem – or are they a symptom? If our academic communities have built an environment where such publications and conferences can flourish, is there something fundamental that must change? And if so… where do we begin?
While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.