MPU: HOW to eliminate ?

Gregory R. Harriman gregoryh at
Thu Jan 25 16:38:22 EST 1996

In article
<Pine.SOL.3.91.960125154445.15908A-100000 at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>,
berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA (Alexander Berezin) wrote:

> Of course, this is all fine, I agree with everything. 
> And this is what I actually meant when said that 90 % of 
> all papers are redundant and unnnessary, even if I 
> disuse calling them 'garbage' or 'crap' (I do).
> The critical point though is how you propose to 
> redesign the reward system that publishing many MPU
> papers will bring you liability rather than merits.
> I personally believe that there are natural limitations
> of how much scientist can publish (I mean, quality
> stuff) per year. Taking into account that the any good 
> work requires a long period of thinking, reflection,
> comprehension, etc. I don't believe that normally
> GOOD scientist can responsibly produce more t
> han 4-5 papers per year.
> (this, in fact, is supported by CV of many great 
> scientists, most of whom amount to just 100+ lifetime 
> papers; Richard Feymnan has about 130 for 40 years 
> career).
> And 20+ papers per year (many now have these figures !) 
> is very much likely excessive, diluted, redundant. There
> should be NEGATIVE merit attached to it. Perhaps 
> inverted U-curve (instead of linear) is what should
> be used for funding (in 'fund researchers, not
> proposals' scheme), with max around 4-5 papers
> per year.

     While we both appear to agree that things could and should be done to
improve the quality of published papers, we are on diametrically opposite
ends of the spectrum when it comes to how to accomplish that.  You appear
to take a big-brother approach and want to arbitrarily dictate how many
papers a person should be allowed to publish.  This is dogmatic and
unfair.  Some scientists might stuggle to publish one paper a year.  Many,
perhaps the majority, may find that 2-4 papers a year is reasonable in
order to maintain quality.  A few talented ones might be able to publish
10 or more excellent papers a year.  It is "wrong" IMHO for anyone ("the
science police") to dictate how many papers a scientist can or should
publish.  Let him/her strive to see how far they can go and let their
scientific peer group decide if they are successful.

     In terms of how to implement a plan to promote quality over
quantity...  Again, take the approach suggested by Dr. Tivol.  If academic
promotions committees looked not at the quantity, but the quality, of
papers in a CV and promoted the researcher accordingly, this would
significantly decrease the motivation and reward for publishing many,
often marginal, papers.

Greg Harriman

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