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View Diary: The Path to Mediocrity in Higher Education: Florida Edition (56 comments)

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  •  A proliferation of articles (2+ / 0-)
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    Calamity Jean, ladybug53

    OK, I read the source rant (link above). It is incredible to me that two of the main factors, both stemming from a single overarching factor with many other negative consequences, were not mentioned as causatives: bean-counting publish or perish rules, and so-called “publication clubs” that exist as a means to cope with those rules. These both result from the “running the university like a business” mentality that is also destroying the whole academic environment.

    Under publish or perish, professors and other faculty must publish a certain number of peer-reviewed articles to advance, both to tenure and afterwords (for example, an average of two per year for two years per grade). If your results aren't ready to publish, tough noogies. So what do people do to guarantee that they are “objectively productive”? They get together in groups of three, four, five, six, or more people and publish more or less always together, making comments and helping each other in various minor ways. Each of those multi-authored publications counts just as much as a sole-author pub (almost always, although some departments might make some relatively minor adjustments). If your club has six members, and each person is the primary author of one publication every other year on average, then everyone in the club advances maximally through the ranks. There are variations in the requirements and of course there are different sizes of these informal clubs and people do move around within several groups. But the phenomenon is quite real.

    It is almost impossible to survive in academia these days without being in one or more of these clubs, or without the old-school bunch of grad students or post-docs in your lab who give you an authorship in each of their publications. But if you do have one or both of those things, then you will be highly respected, prosperous, and successful.

    So, if you want to know why there has been a proliferation of “obscure” journals and the number of articles published overall, then I say that we need to use a denominator to scale the figures. It's a little like the process of comparing 1950 dollars to 2012 dollars. If you divide each article by the number of authors, and each journal by the average number of authors in its pages, I doubt very much that you will find an increase in those “constant articles” and “constant journals”.

    If we are going to stop the proliferation, then we must stop trying to run universities like a business. Really, just freaking stop it. That will have a number of other really good effects too, like for example, people enrolling to seek an education rather than a few magic letters after their name so they can have a “good job”.

    Well, sorry, that's just one of my pet peeves. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

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