US biologist who won the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine this year, Randy Schekman, announced this week that his lab would no longer send research papers to the leading scientific journals like Nature, Cell and Science because they distort scientific process.
He explained that pressure to publish in "luxury" journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favored studies that were likely to make a splash.
In an article titled "How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science", published on December 9 in UK's "The Guardian", Schekman writes:
"I am a scientist. Mine is a professional world that achieves great things for humanity. But it is disfigured by inappropriate incentives. The prevailing structures of personal reputation and career advancement mean the biggest rewards often follow the flashiest work, not the best. Those of us who follow these incentives are being entirely rational – I have followed them myself – but we do not always best serve our profession's interests, let alone those of humanity and society..."
"Just as Wall Street needs to break the hold of the bonus culture, which drives risk-taking that is rational for individuals but damaging to the financial system, so science must break the tyranny of the luxury journals. The result will be better research that better serves science and society."
- Read his entire article and announcement here.
Schekman advocates open-access journals and argues that it is the quality of the science, not the journal's brand, that matters. He called scientists to take action and funders and universities to tell the committees that decide on grants and positions not to judge papers by where they are published
The announcement of boycott was followed by prompt reactions from Nature, Cell and Science. You can read their reactions here.
Nobel prize winner Randy Schekman is the editor of an online journal eLife, a researcher-led, open access digital publication for outstanding research in life science and biomedicine funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Max Planck Society.
eLife content is available for free and is under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY) which really makes them more in line with the trends of this century and rising global awareness.
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