Most scientists, even before they have had direct experience as an author, have a sense that the standard practice of scientific publishing is flawed. Starting as students, by power of observation — which scientists tend to be pretty good at — they see that sharing research results takes a long time, that doing so often involves satisfying editorial demands that may seem arbitrary, and that it involves an odd courtship of the Impact Factor.

The Impact Factor then takes on a life of its own: publishing in a journal with the highest one becomes the goal of publishing – perversely, even the goal of science itself. The process of publishing, not the conceptualization and execution of science, becomes a dominant use of time and energy; the tail that wags the dog.

In the early stages of a career, a researcher may still be innocent enough to question, at least to herself, “how did we get here?” (That is, if the process itself isn’t enough to drive her out of science before she’s hardly started.) As time goes on, one adapts, and accepts, because she has internalized the old adage, “publish or perish”. The Impact Factor holds her career hostage, because it’s perceived to be the sine qua non of publishing. Thus, the cycle perpetuates.

This is an excerpt from a blog post by The AAS's Elizabeth Marincola first published on The AAS Open Research Blog

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