The academic epidemic: chasing scientific ‘impact’ and prestige

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In a provocative Commentary recently published in The FEBS Journal, Dr Ralitsa Madsen, a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Edinburgh embarks on a quest to explore the causes and consequences of what she refers to as academia's current ‘disease’. Ralitsa defines this as the desire for attention and visibility achieved through publication in journals with high impact factors and community approval via social media platforms i.e. ‘likes’ and ‘re-tweets’. It is these egoist aims that, in Ralitsa’s view, often drive scientific discovery, rather than the ‘epistemic (i.e. knowledge‐driven) motive to discover the fundamental truths about life’.

Despite this bleak outlook on the current state of affairs in scientific research, Ralitsa discusses initiatives that could improve the situation, such as.  the increasing use of preprint repositories like bioRxiv that provide an open forum for community-based evaluation of submitted papers, with the over-arching aim of improving research. She encourages institutions to adopt the principles of ‘Open Science’ championed through global initiatives such as The Open Science Framework (OSF) The word of open science practices can be spread through ‘data champions’ who volunteer to advocate openness and data management within their own institutes. In this vein, Ralitsa encourages a move from assessment through impact factors to a system that recognises the ‘real impact’ and quality of research. The Commentary can be read in full at The FEBS Journal: https://febs.onlinelibrary.wil...

The FEBS Journal

The FEBS Journal is an international journal devoted to the rapid publication of full-length papers covering a wide range of topics in any area of the molecular life sciences.