Less Hype, More…What?

[Excerpts taken from the article, “Blocking the Hype‐Hypocrisy‐Falsification‐Fakery Pathway is Needed to Safeguard Science”, by Henning Hopf, Stephen Matlin, Goverdhan Mehta, and Alain Krief, published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition]
“Hype has become prevalent in the age of instantaneous mass communication…there are several drivers.”
“One has been the increasing pressure on academic scientists to demonstrate the “quality”, “value” and “impact” of their work…through metrics that focus on the mechanical surveying of statistics related to the number of publications, their rates of citation and the “impact factors” of the journals in which they are published.”
“To understand how seriously misguided this approach is, one needs to look no further than the cases of Peter Higgs (Nobel Laureate 2013 for the theoretical discovery of the Higgs Boson), who would not have had a scientific career if his publication rate had been taken into account…”
“This pressure was building throughout the 20th century as science expanded, became better funded and increasingly competitive at all levels.”
“It was boosted by the advent of the digital age and by the growing influence of commercial publishers, with intensifying competition among commercial and learned society publishers for a share of the lucrative, expanding market for science journals.”
“Further pressure came from increasing competition between academic centres to enhance their reputations and income by efforts to recruit and retain leading scientists.”
“…the intersection of the science advancement system (via publications), the career reward system (status, promotions, grants and prizes) and the financial system (large profits from publishing journals) has created perverse incentives for authors, publishers…and institutions to game the publishing system to their own advantage.”
“Academic institutions have added to the hype generated between authors and journals by establishing and expanding press and “development” offices that seek to attract attention in the popular media by producing press releases, e-newsletters and website pages summarising the research and its significance…”
“It is but another step down from the grey hinterland of hype into the dark underworld of deliberate falsification.”
“Journals, scientists, institutions and funders all have a part in tackling reproducibility.”
“Many institutions have acceded (at least on paper) to the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA),…while continuing to turn a blind eye to committees that persist in giving weight to publication metrics such as h-indices and impact factors in assessing academics for employment or promotion.”
“Leading national academies…and individual scientists… have recommended good practices in the evaluation of researchers and research programmes, emphasising the importance of assessment by competent experts rather than reliance on publication metrics.”
“The worlds of science publication, career rewards and commercial interests are tightly interconnected.”
“Finding solutions that will discourage, detect and penalise those who travel along the hype-hypocrisy-falsification-fakery pathway must therefore involve systemic approaches that consider how changes in one part of the system will impact on other parts.”
To read the article, click here.


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