Publish or Perish, that is a question.

Go to the profile of Jia Li
Oct 10, 2019
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Jia Li, Chunde Bao, Liangjing Lu, Yuetian Yu

During the third year of my doctoral career, I received an invitation to make an oral presentation at a national conference of Rheumatology. I could not show up because I was busy doing experiments and revising my paper. At that time I submitted my paper to a high-impact journal in Rheumatology and reviewers thought it could be published if I made a minor revision. Six months was given to me to work on it. I have to get the paper published before the deadline to apply for my doctorate. Every minute counts in case of delay. A couple of months later, my paper was accepted which gave my mentor and I a great sense of relief since we were able to meet the criteria in time. The publication marked a good ending of my PhD career and a fresh start in medicine.

Publishing scientific papers in a journal with high impact factor is mandated for the qualification of a doctorate in most universities of China. Two types of PhD degree can be selected in medical fields including a scientific degree or the professional one. Medical students that pursue scientific degree have to publish at least one paper in recognized journals to obtain PhD Generally, PhD candidates have 3 or 5 years to finish their researches and complete a detailed research report. Frankly speaking, it is hard work to accomplish the research and get it published for a student in three years, and few of them are willing to delay studying to 5 years. I believe it should be an unforgettable experience for every PhD candidate. Most of them are under great pressure to get the paper published to acquire the doctorate as early as possible and then secure a job in a teaching hospital or an academic institution.

When I started my PhD life, my project was with innovative significance. I put in much more time than I thought to design study and perform experiments because of a lack of adequate expertise in the lab. In the end, it spent three and a half years for me to finish my scientific research and publish the results. Compare to me, one of my classmates published her paper during her second year of the PhD program since she used the available expertise. Everyone thinks I am a well-qualified researcher. However, I was suffering from more anxiety while waiting for the acceptance letter of my paper from the periodical office. 

The doctoral program mainly focuses on cultivating scientific thinking and the ability toput up and solve scientific problems with a rational mind.The projects and experimental conditions for each student vary a lot. Therefore, it is unreasonable to rank them only by publication records. Besides, novel findings attaining needs more resources and manpower with the development of science and techniques. It is hard to publish a well-performed paper with a more complete scientific story in a short time like 3 years. But under the current policy of degree-offering system in china, PhD students rush to put an end on the research so that they can submit a paper to a journal and get accepted before the DATE. The deeper and more valuable finding is more likely skipped, which can be regarded as the most pity type of human error. We have observed a sharp increase in the number of scientific papers published by China while a tiny fraction of them are much quoted. As it indicates that pressure to publish papers limit the PhD students to make more sounding and complete findings. 

What is very worrying is that the condition remains unchanged nowadays. In my university, PhD candidates are required to publish at least one scientific paper in a journal with a high impact factor (usually beyond 5) to apply for their diploma. Publication or perish, it is an unavoidablequestion of whether a medical student can get a good position in a teaching hospital as well as get promoted later on.  Science aims to extend human knowledge. Nobody doubts the role of publication in scientific research. But responsibility, passion, and innovation ability are also highly valuable. As a saying goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover.”You can not judge a PhD only by his publication. An ideal evaluation system is supposed to cover most of the crucial elements in an academic career. In the future, a better system might be developed to evaluate young clinician-researchers and encourage them to move on in Science while being a medical doctor.  



Go to the profile of Jia Li

Jia Li

MD. Ph.D., Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine,Renji Hospital

1 Comments

Go to the profile of Jianyu Yu
Jianyu Yu about 1 month ago

Actually, writing a paper can improve one's ability to do better job on his or her medical career,I think.