On Scientific Reporting

As the scientific community, makes progress by leaps and bounds to achieve a utopia of technological prowess, the importance of knowledge exchange cannot be ignored. A time tested tradition, continues to be the publishing of scientific progress in well known scientific journals. While this does provide credibility to the work being published, as more times than not, the results are cross-verified and tested for accuracy and reproducibility; a recent spurt in the number of journals themselves, and the myriad of non-scientific attributes attached to scientific publishing, has led to an overall decrease in the level of scientific discourse in today’s journals.

While this is my personal opinion, I am sure, many of my colleagues in the community will agree, that while journals with very high impact factors, still remain accountable and continue to publish only good quality, verifiable research, there has been a massive decline in the quality of scientific publishing in the less impactful journals.

Part of the reason for this is the recent trend where the overall quality of one’s research acumen is gauged by indices that rely heavily on scientific publishing parameters. This has increased the pressure on the scientists themselves to prove their mettle by publishing more and more. As the quantity increases, the quality is bound to decrease. Tampering with experimental data to make the experiment more likeable for publishing is no longer just heard of in the movies. A majority of the younger researchers are forced into this rat race of ‘publishing papers’, because that seems to be the only way to climb the ladder to the top of academia. Students as young as sophomore undergraduates are now focussed more on getting a ‘Publications‘ section under their CV, rather than pursuing the actual art of science, and exploring this ever expanding frontier. What gives fuel to this fire among younger students at the very least is that these publications are becoming a criteria for higher education admissions to top colleges and universities.

What we fail to understand is that good research takes time, and involves months, if not years of painstaking perseverance. Add to that the pressure of regularly publishing work, is an added burden that does more bad than good. Research work is like banging your head against the wall, and hoping that the wall breaks first. While there is no denying the importance of publishing papers, publishing good papers is even more important.

Both publishing houses and administrative bodies across the research arena need to realise the effect that uncontrolled publishing mania can have on the progress of science, and ensure that this is curbed. Only then can science in its raw magical form, be truly understood and appreciated.

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