Our Community Vision Realized
The vision for the Behavioural & Social Sciences community page was that it would be a forum for sharing ideas and opinions. It is exciting to see this realized in the Publish or Perish channel, which has exceeded my wildest expectations for what the community page could do.
Sorry if you've been trying to contact me for the last month. I've been very busy reading (and tweeting!) the 57 phenomenal blog posts in the "Is it Publish or Perish?" channel.
When we first launched the Behavioural & Social Sciences community page a little over a year ago, our aim was to provide an informal venue where researchers could engage with each other and with us on issues relevant to them. It has been wonderful to see authors take to Behind the Paper posts, in which, as the name suggests, authors share the story that led to their Nature Research publication. But, other kinds of posts, not tied to specific papers, have been slower to materialize.
So I was thrilled when Marike from Nature Human Behaviour asked if we could invite blog posts on Publish or Perish to accompany the collection of World View pieces published in the journal. The idea was that this would allow everyone who wanted to contribute to share the views, which could not be achieved in the journal pages alone. This is exactly what the community page aims to do - open up the conversation. Seeing how many people took us up on this offer, the different ideas and opinions they've brought to the table, and how widely read this content has been (we've had over 20K visitors to these pages!) is a testament to how valuable this can be.
What makes the Publish or Perish channel particularly special is the diversity of contributors, across career stages:
and across the world:
Our representation is far from perfect. You'll see a lot of posts from neuroscience and psychology, but few from other behavioural & social science disciplines, with sociology and anthropology being notable omissions; I'm incredibly pleased to see posts from places we don't often hear from, like Hungary, Vietnam, and Mexico, but there are clearly gaps in our geographic coverage. Using our community page for projects like this one is a great way to expand the range of voices contributing to important discussions, and this has been a tremendous success to that end, but we need to keep working to figure out how to reach everyone.
I would be remiss
not to take this opportunity to offer my own two cents on Publish or Perish. I
published a lot as a PhD student. Writing papers was by far my greatest
strength as a researcher, and what I enjoyed most; I became the go-to person
for writing up old data-sets that had been abandoned by former lab members (which, it turns out, is a great way to rack up publications). I
also really liked engaging with the review process, and the art of constructing
convincing arguments in response to reviewers and editors to get our papers
accepted (more on that another time). But, having more than a dozen papers
under my belt within a year of graduation did not mean that I was well-suited
to an academic career, or that it was one I wanted - and as it turned out, I
didn't. I certainly gained valuable skills from engaging with the publication process, and it no doubt informed my ultimate career choice (hello, academic publishing!), but knowing academia wasn't the right fit for me makes me question publications as the primary metric for others. (For the record I do not know if my publication record would have made
me a competitive faculty job candidate, because I never applied).
As an editor, I worry that the pressure to publish has created an arms race for publications that undermines what, as readers, we want out of a paper - a complete and satisfying package. I often receive one-study submissions that would make strong contributions...if only they also included at least one of the studies articulated as "future directions" in the discussion that would have provided deeper understanding of the effect or its implications; I feel disappointed when I read a submission asking a really interesting longitudinal question...only to find that the baseline data was already published. In both cases I'm asking authors to wait to submit their work, so that the paper can be stronger, but this is a difficult ask when it runs at odds with professional incentive structures.
I don't know what the solution is, or what role we as editors can play, but the pieces in the Publish or Perish collection have given me a lot to think about. A huge thank you to all those who contributed World Views and blog posts, and of course to Marike, who was inspired to create this project in the first place.
And if you didn't write a World View or blog post, don't panic, there is still opportunity to participate - comment on the blog posts you liked, or those you disagree with, and keep the conversation going!