Boycotts and Publishing

So people who knows me understand that I’m generally against boycotts. Recently a Nobel laureate announced that he will no longer published in ultra-high impact journals such as Nature, Science, and Cell. His argument is that these journals have inflated scientific perceived-values that are abused. It’s really the same arguments we’ve been having regarding scientific publishing for the past 20+ years.

There are some truth to his points, but the main thing about this that is completely bogus, as pointed out by Ars Technica, is this: It is 100% hypocritical. Publishing in Nature/Science/Cell is probably a huge part of what got him the Nobel Prize to begin with. This is like, after winning the Olympics, you say, 「Hey yall, the Olympics is totally bogus. Yeah it worked for me, but… you all really just shouldn’t do it because of reasons.」

I think scientific publishing is definitely a little broken with too much power in for-profit publishing houses such as Elsevier, and that the way we measure impact is probably not much more accurate or meaningful than the Nielson Ratings for TV programs. But high impact journals such as Nature and Science are prestigious not solely because of sinister reasons. They really just have a much higher publishing standard, plain and simple. It’s easy to paint with a broad brush and say: 「Oh Science/Nature is bogus; remember that one time they published papers from that plastic fantastic guy? What a joke.」 But the logical fallacy there is that it’s not as if lower-impact journal doesn’t publish crap, like, all the time.

So, long story short: Scientific publishing has a long way to go to fix some of its broken-ness; boycotting is probably not the answer; biting the hand that feeds you is tacky.


Originally published here by Matt Chan:

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