Researchers have an obligation publish as little as possible

This first post is about why this blog might have been a mistake. You don’t have any obligation to read it.

Global scientific output is increasing every year. And that is only in publication counting schemes that only include “serious” scientific publications like long-form research articles and patents. Add less rigorous outlets like blog posts or even discussions on sites like stackexchange and the amount becomes insurmountable.

2007 article famously estimated that 50% of articles where only ever read by their author and peer-reviewer (if at all). While we might hope that this estimate is wrong, scholars in every field make the daily experience that they can not keep up with the relevant publications. This leads to all sorts of detrimental effects. Papers are only skimmed rather than studied in depth. Reading the abstract and the conclusion should be enough, right? Prior work is misunderstood and misattributed, science is unnecessarily repeated. Science is degraded to an egoistical undertaking.

Even if you are a prolific reader, your mental capacity won’t keep up with research output. Divide and conquer has failed, even the tiniest sub-fields are overwhelmed by publications. There is nowhere to hide.

But researchers still have a moral obligation to absorb and build on previous work.
The only solution of this problem is to become aware that contrary to publish or perish, scholars have the moral obligation to publish as little as possible.
They have a moral obligation to easen the lives of their peers and to better science. They should be Gauß rather than Euler. Be as productive as you like in research but don’t generate unnecessary obligations on your peers to read and quote your paper.

Less publications means less cluttered science, less publications means better science.

Addendum Feb 14th: Apparently you publishing too much also clogs the review system, according to this Nature piece.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *