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(Pacific Standard Magazine)   Half of academic papers submitted are never read by anyone other than the author, referee, and journal editor. 90% of published papers are never cited. Meh, the odds are still better than getting a submission greenlit on Fark, says "professor" subby   (psmag.com) divider line 42
    More: Interesting, editors, Institute for Advanced Study, professors, Faraday, National Endowment for the Humanities, digital library, documents, opinions  
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1237 clicks; posted to Main » on 31 Mar 2014 at 2:32 PM (34 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-03-31 02:33:00 PM  
And?
 
2014-03-31 02:33:30 PM  
upload.wikimedia.org
 
2014-03-31 02:34:25 PM  
Considering the volume of papers produced and the time it takes to read them, I don't find that surprising.
 
2014-03-31 02:34:55 PM  
As long as your check clears, they don't really give a sh*t about anything else, career student.
 
2014-03-31 02:35:49 PM  
I am proud of my thesis paper but I wouldnt wish reading it upon anyone.
 
2014-03-31 02:36:59 PM  
Let's see... subby, the mod who greenlit it, and the counter says there are 5 clicks.

I guess I'm number eight?
 
2014-03-31 02:38:11 PM  
Fonsworth?
 
2014-03-31 02:45:02 PM  
Bravo Subby, Bravo.
 
2014-03-31 02:47:54 PM  
If universities are going to require professors to publish a certain number of papers each year, the a lot of papers are going to be written.
 
2014-03-31 02:50:26 PM  
Interesting that at the bottom of the article is reference to another...wait for it..academic paper that disputes the numbers cited in the article.

It is a vicious cycle
 
2014-03-31 02:54:38 PM  
shrug - when you make "publish or perish" the law of the land, people will publish crap to survive and journals will sprout up to facilitate that.  In many organizations it's also very difficult to get sent to conferences unless you're presenting.

\ last time I checked at least half of my papers had been cited, so I'm beating the odds!
\\ thesis isn't one of them :/
 
2014-03-31 02:57:59 PM  
That's nothing- look into academic book publishing sometime.  If you work in the humanities, chances are you're going to be judged on the books you write.  These are typically published by a University press in lots of ~1000, and then purchased by other academic libraries.  After that they calmly gather dust, never to see the light of day.

And don't even think about graduate theses.  I'm quite certain mine has never been opened- even the copies on my bookshelf haven't moved in two decades other than to push them aside for more books.
 
2014-03-31 03:00:01 PM  
I'm surprised the number is that high, to be perfectly honest.

I don't mean to disrespect Professors, I gave serious consideration to becoming one myself (or at least trying).  But I honestly feel it just isn't realistic to expect every college professor to be able to do research that is worth reading.  But it's part of their job.  So they pump out papers, and they get published, and nobody reads them.  For every MIT Professor, you've got 50 more professors at no-name state schools and 'plan-b' private schools.

When I started doing post-graduate work, I really struggled with understanding papers in my field.  I needed to brush up on a lot of areas I was weak in, and even then, I'd need to really spend time, making several passes, before I could digest the paper.  With practice, I've gotten better, but the thing that gets me is how many papers are essentially just a whole lot of words that say 'Duh'.

I mean, it's long, it's well written, it's technically correct, but when I've gone through the last handful of publications for a Professor, it's just one big 'duh' after another 'duh'.  Take away the complexity and it mostly boils down to 'Back in 1970 that famous guy who published a bunch of papers and proved mathematically that X is true - well, X is true.'  That's it.  Well....duh.

And as you move away from the 'hard' sciences and into the fluffier stuff, well, it's still well written and it still has lots of complexity, but good luck finding any substance.

Even when papers are referenced, it's really just to establish credibility.  There are plenty of examples of published papers that reference other papers while getting them completely wrong.  Like this:  'http://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/4984/someone-cited-my-p ape r-in-an-irrelevant-manner '
I checking my google scholar page, when I noticed that one of my papers, of which I am a co-author, had been cited by an unknown academic. I read the article, which was on gene regulatory networks, and my paper is in computational neuroscience. The reference wording doesn't make any sense though.

And the prevailing advice is to 'let it go' because hey, when people search who has referenced your paper - you'll get more hits!  YAY!
 
2014-03-31 03:05:08 PM  
Meanwhile, access to those unread papers is getting more and more expensive by the year, as online journal subscriptions are bundled and sold and the prices keep going through the roof.  Particularly because, unlike the hard copy days when if you canceled your subscription you still had your back issues, nowadays if you cancel your online-only subscription to a journal, you lose access to it altogether. 

Libraries for decent-sized universities barely buy BOOKS anymore.  Probably 3/4 of their collections budgets go toward these subscription fees. 

http://techland.time.com/2012/04/26/if-harvard-cant-afford-academic- jo urnal-subscriptions-maybe-its-time-for-an-open-access-model/
 
2014-03-31 03:07:45 PM  
I got cited for erotic driving once.

Erratic I mean
 
2014-03-31 03:11:53 PM  

Jeet Kune D'oh: Libraries for decent-sized universities barely buy BOOKS anymore. Probably 3/4 of their collections budgets go toward these subscription fees.


Harvard has endowments out the ass and they will always have money for databases and books.  But I get what your are saying and the prices are out of control.  Libraries should create consortia if they can and negotiate with vendors that way.
 
2014-03-31 03:15:59 PM  

meat0918: And?


Seriously, this is only a surprise to non-academics.

/Helpful to have that kind of literary base if you need it, though...
//researching obscure topics is so much easier with a thousand people writing papers on it.
 
2014-03-31 03:22:03 PM  

PsiChick: meat0918: And?

Seriously, this is only a surprise to non-academics.

/Helpful to have that kind of literary base if you need it, though...
//researching obscure topics is so much easier with a thousand people writing papers on it.


Yep - and you don't always know which papers will be relevant and which will be drivel until you see where the work leads downstream.
 
2014-03-31 03:25:04 PM  
That "Killing a Pig" article actually looks pretty interesting.  It might not got cited much coming out of Gastronomica, but if it was published in Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker it'd go over great.
 
2014-03-31 03:26:40 PM  

Glockenspiel Hero: And don't even think about graduate theses.


Every so often, I cite to some old graduate thesis that was never formally published, but whose existence I'm very grateful for. I can think of a couple of topic areas where the foundational literature was a thesis.
 
2014-03-31 03:30:01 PM  
According to Google Scholar, 11 of my 22 listed publications have been cited at least once.  Though I'm too lazy to check, I'm sure some of that is self-referencing.
 
2014-03-31 03:30:12 PM  
Stopped reading the headline after 10 words.. Who had time to read anymore?
 
2014-03-31 03:40:37 PM  
I've read many more papers that I cite, because you typically have a limit on how many references you can use in a manuscript.  And referencing papers in journals of a higher impact score tend to help you get past reviewers, leaving many decent papers uncited.
 
2014-03-31 03:43:26 PM  
We just had a paper rejected (in part) for "insufficient citation".

I really have to ask: that work didn't have any bearing on how we conducted our work, we're not going to go read a bunch of new material and completely revise what we did (the work is only tangentially related), and ultimately we're doing completely different things. We've also got a list of 40 other citations of the stuff that actually did influence our work, and has actual relevance, should you want to go follow up our methods with others in the field.

Why exactly should I go cite their stuff just because they feel entitled? I'm assuming that they had trouble reading, given how far their head must have been up their ass.
 
2014-03-31 03:44:17 PM  

Gunny Highway: I am proud of my thesis paper but I wouldnt wish reading it upon anyone.


Ha! So much this.  My mother insisted on a copy of mine, but I told her not to bother trying to read it unless she really can't get to sleep.
 
2014-03-31 03:46:47 PM  

Lamberts Ho Man: PsiChick: meat0918: And?

Seriously, this is only a surprise to non-academics.

/Helpful to have that kind of literary base if you need it, though...
//researching obscure topics is so much easier with a thousand people writing papers on it.

Yep - and you don't always know which papers will be relevant and which will be drivel until you see where the work leads downstream.


For writing a class paper, that doesn't usually matter at the lower levels.

/And bless being an English major--you can figure out if it's valid or not then and there, and explain exactly why.
 
2014-03-31 03:49:12 PM  

God Is My Co-Pirate: Gunny Highway: I am proud of my thesis paper but I wouldnt wish reading it upon anyone.

Ha! So much this.  My mother insisted on a copy of mine, but I told her not to bother trying to read it unless she really can't get to sleep.


I gave my father a copy of mine.  I found it with the bathroom reading.
 
2014-03-31 03:49:29 PM  
The other 10% are about climate warming
 
2014-03-31 03:52:28 PM  
I now have this picture of respected academics in robes yelling "You suck ref! What are you, blind??"
 
2014-03-31 03:52:38 PM  

Lamberts Ho Man: PsiChick: meat0918: And?

Seriously, this is only a surprise to non-academics.

/Helpful to have that kind of literary base if you need it, though...
//researching obscure topics is so much easier with a thousand people writing papers on it.

Yep - and you don't always know which papers will be relevant and which will be drivel until you see where the work leads downstream.


I think non-academics tend to think of research as a linear stream, where one work leads to another and another, when it's really more like a tree, with some branches extending longer than others and some getting cut short.

Not to mention that procedural advances can be made even in esoteric subjects.  You may hate the paper on political parties in countries that no longer exist, but maybe the author discovered a new trove of sources that others can use for more important pursuits.  Or the paper on the definition of the word "capitalist" might develop a new method for evaluating how words change over time or between languages.  No one paper sits in isolation.  It's the collective research that matters.
 
2014-03-31 03:53:48 PM  
Some aren't read by anyone except the author -- and maybe not even them.

Scientific world getting duped by computerized fake research papers

Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers

Meanwhile:

Peter Higgs, the British physicist who gave his name to the Higgs boson, believes no university would employ him in today's academic system because he would not be considered "productive" enough.

Higgs, 84, said he would almost certainly have been sacked had he not been nominated for the Nobel in 1980.
 
2014-03-31 03:54:37 PM  

Fark_Guy_Rob: I don't mean to disrespect Professors, I gave serious consideration to becoming one myself (or at least trying).  But I honestly feel it just isn't realistic to expect every college professor to be able to do research that is worth reading.  But it's part of their job.  So they pump out papers, and they get published, and nobody reads them.  For every MIT Professor, you've got 50 more professors at no-name state schools and 'plan-b' private schools.


It's interesting for those of us at small liberal arts schools.  Undergraduate research is a big focus here, and rightfully so: it's one of the reasons students come to a SLAC instead of an R1. I benefitted from it back in my undergraduate days: I eventually ended up with 4 published papers, and having one actually in print while I was applying to grad schools was really helpful.  It's also a big part of the promotion and tenure process for faculty- without it you're not going to make tenure.

But the research that undergrads, especially sophomores and juniors can do, is really quite limited.  Much of what they can manage, especially in the sciences, just isn't novel or interesting enough to actually get into print.    New faculty sometimes come here with highly unrealistic expectations of what they're going to be able to do- you have no grad students, you're going to teach a 3-2 load and you're expected to serve on committees.  But you still have to do *something*   So you end up with papers like my undergrad ones: fairly boring stuff where you basically do a series of analyses on a compound X, publish, then perform the same analyses on compound Y.  Nobel prize winning work it's not.

/IgNoble prizes in Biology are however quite within reach.
 
2014-03-31 04:00:45 PM  

gerbilpox: Some aren't read by anyone except the author -- and maybe not even them.

Scientific world getting duped by computerized fake research papers

Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers


Don't take that to mean that there's a huge pile of junk science getting traded around. The truth is that for any given pursuit there are probably one or two really top places to publish papers. Those papers are the 10% that get cited, passed around, and advance the state of the art. There are a lot of papers that get published to paper farms, or to incredibly obscure places for incredibly obscure pursuits.

It's like saying that Pro, Triple A, Double A, and Class A baseball all comprise "professional baseball". There's a huge difference between the bottom and the top (like everything else in life), but the difference might not be apparent to you if you're not in the know.
 
2014-03-31 04:10:24 PM  
I know a lot of graduate students that decide to put a $20 bill hidden somewhere in the pages of their thesis or dissertation before sending it to the library. There's got to be a small fortune hidden in many libraries by now,. . .
 
2014-03-31 04:12:55 PM  
I have one paper that's been cited about 1800 times.   I still wonder if anyone's actually read it though.

And I have to be at the gym in 26 minutes.
 
2014-03-31 04:24:30 PM  

rugman11: Lamberts Ho Man: PsiChick: meat0918: And?

Seriously, this is only a surprise to non-academics.

/Helpful to have that kind of literary base if you need it, though...
//researching obscure topics is so much easier with a thousand people writing papers on it.

Yep - and you don't always know which papers will be relevant and which will be drivel until you see where the work leads downstream.

I think non-academics tend to think of research as a linear stream, where one work leads to another and another, when it's really more like a tree, with some branches extending longer than others and some getting cut short.

 Definitely - hence why my thesis has never been referenced.  It was interesting work and done well, but the basic conclusion was that you can't get there from here.  But the hypothesis was reasonable so somebody had to spend two years of their life to figure that out.  If somebody did cite it, it would be something along the lines of "Lamberts Ho Man showed that approach A doesn't work".  People may read a negative finding like that and have it guide their research, but it's unlikely to get cited.
 
2014-03-31 04:30:55 PM  
I work at a non-profit that publishes books nobody wants to read and the papers mentioned in the article (Jstor is a competitor). It's sad really, some of the information in them is great but it's presented poorly (insanely dry read) or it's so far out there that I don't even think about looking at it in paper or electronic form.
 Something else that is kind of sad is the the university expects the Press to pay its own way as well as pay the university for its 'management'. Scholarly books and journals aren't big money makers regardless of what people might think.
 
2014-03-31 05:34:13 PM  
Sturgeon's Law.
 
2014-03-31 05:46:43 PM  
treating all conferences and journals as equivalent is silly really.  Everyone knows what the A-list places are for their field and those are the ones that get read and cited.  You save your good stuff for the better venues.

I have yet to hear of a fraudulent paper in the A-list journals that I know of.

I think this is as close to my area anyone has managed

http://blog.richmond.edu/physicsbunn/2012/10/19/math-journal-publish es -computer-generated-fake-paper/


but as you might expect pure math is very esoteric and I could see a reviewer skim through for the main propositions.

As mentioned above, the Pro venues really do get peer reviewed and have high rejection rates.
 
2014-03-31 07:30:16 PM  

Gunny Highway: God Is My Co-Pirate: Gunny Highway: I am proud of my thesis paper but I wouldnt wish reading it upon anyone.

Ha! So much this.  My mother insisted on a copy of mine, but I told her not to bother trying to read it unless she really can't get to sleep.

I gave my father a copy of mine.  I found it with the bathroom reading.


Mine was only published online, so my family only has unclicked links to my thesis.
 
2014-03-31 07:35:07 PM  

dbaggins: treating all conferences and journals as equivalent is silly really.  Everyone knows what the A-list places are for their field and those are the ones that get read and cited.  You save your good stuff for the better venues.

I have yet to hear of a fraudulent paper in the A-list journals that I know of.

I think this is as close to my area anyone has managed

http://blog.richmond.edu/physicsbunn/2012/10/19/math-journal-publish es -computer-generated-fake-paper/


but as you might expect pure math is very esoteric and I could see a reviewer skim through for the main propositions.

As mentioned above, the Pro venues really do get peer reviewed and have high rejection rates.


Yeah. Just publish a paper, and you'll start getting email solicitations from the "Publishing Mills." Today, I was invited to a conference in China because of a paper we published last year, along with a few spam emails offering pay-for-publish.
 
2014-03-31 10:24:03 PM  
My job involves reading all these papers, every internet and communication standard or protocol, and the content of roughly 250,000 patents and pre-grant publications.

The problem with each one (except the protocols and standards) is that 95% of the content in each individual paper/patent is old and boring and merely creates a baseline of understanding so that you can comprehend the context of the 5% that is new and interesting.
 
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