Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Incentives matter: Distorting science

A newly minted Nobel Prize winning biologist has publicly declared that he and his lab will no longer send their research to the extreme premier science journals, Science, Nature, and Cell.  According to a news article at The Guardian:
Randy Schekman, a US biologist who won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine this year and receives his prize in Stockholm on Tuesday, said his lab would no longer send research papers to the top-tier journals, Nature, Cell and Science.
Schekman said pressure to publish in "luxury" journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favoured studies that were likely to make a splash.
This is a another example of the power of incentives in the science research publishing arena.  Regular OLS readers have seen accounts of this before:  Incentives offered by journals to scientists combine with the natural incentives editors face to promote their journals and result in distortions of the scientific research endeavor.  Add politics -- always and everywhere present -- and it's easy to understand the hit to its reputation the scientific community is suffering through currently. [ht: realclearscience.com]