Opinion: Researchers can be too prolific


12 Sep 2015

A high publication rate should be regarded as an indication of poor authorship practices and should be discounted when evaluating track record, argues a researcher in the MJA. 

Writing in a reflections letter to the journal mental health researcher Professor Anthony Jorm from the University of Melbourne acknowledges that medical research was a competitive business that required strong performance indicators — often in the form of publications and citations — in order to survive.

However, some authors were claiming authorship on an “extraordinary” number of publications, he noted. For instance, a search of highly cited researchers found a median number of 32 papers per year, with eight individuals having authored more than 50 publications per year.

“I question whether it is possible to meaningfully participate as an author on one or more publications per week” he wrote.

Producing an “implausibly large” number of publications per year should be regarded negatively by grant review, Jorm proposes.

Employing institutions should also do spot audits on staff, similar to what occurs with medical overservicing.

Lastly journals could do more to check the role of authors in producing a publication, he suggests.

“If action is not taken on this issue… we are in danger of seeing an escalation of implausible authorship claims as researchers compete with each other for scarce resources” he concluded.

Jorm is supported by an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowship and authored 36 articles in 2014.


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