Stop the Presses!

Ah, it is a glorious moment when the Grumpy Geophysicist finds a kindred soul writing a column in Nature that conveys a message GG has felt needs to be broadcast:

Please stop drowning the scientific literature in marginal (or sub-marginal) science simply because everybody thinks you need to publish stuff frequently. It hurts science.

As one who has hung near the very lowest rungs of publication frequency in earth science for a long time, GG knows that the system right now penalizes those who exercise restraint in publishing papers. (For instance, the insinuation in an NSF review that one paper off a grant was unacceptably low). We really need to right this ship. (Years ago, GG heard that Harvard was ditching the submission of a raft of papers when considering faculty for tenure or promotion, instead demanding a small number of papers with a discussion of their merit; GG hasn’t found documentation on this online, though. It would be a move in the right direction).

When funding agencies use “public outreach” in the form of newspaper articles as a measure of quality, we all suffer.  (That John Oliver piece demonstrates that nicely). Similarly, demands that the results of all grants be published–in multiple numbers, no less!– in some form hurts us all. When the highest level of peer evaluation is counting numbers, we all suffer.

Look, if Congress demands something for every grant made, let NSF open a fileserver and let scientists deposit whatever emerged from their grants in it.  Hell, even let all these things be assigned DOI numbers on the chance that one scientist’s noise is another’s signal. No peer review, just basically a step up from the reports that grant recipients must file at present anyways. And in exchange, NSF stops caring about peer-reviewed publications from grants as well as publicity and citation numbers.

Meantime, guess we bring on Big Literature.



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