[ASC-list] 'Publish or perish'

Nancy Longnecker nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au
Tue Jun 25 03:22:04 UTC 2013

Hello Brendon,

I totally get your sentiment and agree about the obligation of scientists to communicate widely. But as someone who has had a promotion application knocked back because of insufficient 'real' publications, I can attest to the pressure academics and other scientists face to publish in peer reviewed journals. The reality is that media work and other science communication might be encouraged by our employers with motherhood statements but counts for sweet *-all in promotion.

This is not the way things should be, but it is a researcher's reality. People who already have a pretty overwhelming work load are generally doing public communication in their 'spare time' which is non-existent for most. 

I believe that many scientists these days are enthusiastic about communicating with the public or at least reluctantly aware that they should. But many choose to put their career development first and focus on producing peer-reviewed publications. Hats off to them in some respects. They are more likely to rise to positions of influence earlier and many then choose to give back in a variety of ways. Those who do more public communication may do so for personal reasons and be satisfied that they are doing the right thing but are not generally rewarded for that effort by our current system.

So a word of caution about appearing to 'blame' researchers/ scientists when it is really the system that needs a good shakeup. This issue is not restricted to Australia or Australian universities. It is a global issue. 

The down side of 'progress' is that we will be faced with metrics that we may not like. But flawed metrics are probably better than nothing.

Cheers, Nancy

Assoc Prof Nancy Longnecker

Science Communication
School of Animal Biology, M092
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, WA   6009

ph: 61 8 6488 3926
nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au

skype: nancylongnecker

“Science is part of the reality of living; it is the what, the how, and the why of everything in our experience.” Rachel Carson, 1952.

CRICOS Provider No. 00126G

From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au [asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Brendon Cant [brendon at iinet.net.au]
Sent: Tuesday, 25 June 2013 10:53 AM
To:  ASC Lists
Subject: [ASC-list] 'Publish or perish'

I’m interested to learn if anyone can point me to some ‘pointers’ for ‘educating’ scientists and researchers on why publishing in peer reviewed international journals is not the be all and end all of communicating their research. Encouraging scientists to be comfortable with providing details to non-indexed publications, in other words working with media and communicating research, including purpose, methodology and findings, preliminary or otherwise, is the core of communication for science communicators, but sometimes it can be a battle, as we all know. Researchers, especially those in universities, have a publish or perish mentality and the scientific publishing numbers game they frequently insist on playing is to the detriment of the very people who fund them, often the taxpayer and, increasingly, private, corporate funders. If there’s public money involved, surely scientists have an obligation to let the wider community, not just their scientific peers, know what they’re up to, especially if there’s public good in the equation.

Brendon Cant
BCA PR Pty Ltd
PO Box 4444
Mosman Park
Western Australia 6012
Mob 0417 930 536

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