Scientists should publish less often?


What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

Or, we are warned, they will be “swamped by the ever-increasing volume of poor work.”

Imagine, on the virtual heels of: Authors: There is a worrying amount of outright fraud in psychology (But, they say, it may be no more common than in other disciplines), we get this:

From science policy analyst Daniel Sarewitz at Nature,

Mainstream scientific leaders increasingly accept that large bodies of published research are unreliable. But what seems to have escaped general notice is a destructive feedback between the production of poor-quality science, the responsibility to cite previous work and the compulsion to publish.

More than 50 years ago, Price predicted that the scientific enterprise would soon have to go through a transition from exponential growth to “something radically different”, unknown and potentially threatening. Today, the interrelated problems of scientific quantity and quality are a frightening manifestation of what he foresaw. It seems extraordinarily unlikely that these problems will be resolved through the home remedies of better statistics and lab practice, as important as they may be. Rather, they would seem — and this is what Price believed — to announce that the enterprise of science is evolving towards something different and as yet only dimly seen.

Current trajectories threaten science with drowning in the noise of its own rising productivity, a future that Price described as “senility”. Avoiding this destiny will, in part, require much more selective publication. Rising quality can thus emerge from declining scientific efficiency and productivity. We can start by publishing less, and less often, whatever the promotional e-mails promise us. More.

The comments are interesting. So many of them are variations on: All talk, no action.

Maybe it all has to end that way. It could have something to do with naturalism.

After all, if our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth and there is no free will, as naturalists believe, then we couldn’t discover facts anyway. We can only advance careers, like wolves getting the best of the carcass.

See also: If peer review is working, why all the retractions?