Monday, June 15, 2009

Professors Of Academic Medicine Are Different From You And Me*: Blowing The Lid Off Publishing In The Sciences

The next time a scientist on your Tenure and Promotion committee gets sniffy about the publishing pace of a colleague in the humanities or social sciences, tell them to read this post from Margaret Soltan, our university ethicist on call over at University Diaries. Then tell them to put a sock in it.


If you are not a literature professor, or even an undergraduate English major as was the Radical, this title derives from the following (undoubtedly apocryphal) encounter between Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald: ‘You know, the rich are different from you and me.’
Hemingway: ‘Yes. They've got more money.’


Shane said...

There is a lot of space between the medical world and "the sciences", and unless you have a med school at your university, you do not run into the former.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, but definitely not a representative one. The story with most science publishing is very, very different. Big names in the biotech, medical, and pharma fields often do get what is in my opinion undue credit for research they didn't do, but it's a far stretch to extend this behavior to the other 95% of tenured science profs.

That being said, the rate of publishing in the sciences IS often much higher than in the humanities. Many scientists work their booties off to get out 5-15 publications a year. They have the benefit of graduate students, grants, and a collaborative infrastructure that encourages publication.

The humanities and science publication systems are just wildly different. An article and post the engages the difference between the sciences and the humanities (in terms of issues of funding, number of students, academic culture, publication expectations [length, number, content] and University support, to name a few) might be more productive than one that focuses on the practices of relatively few scientists and seems to suggest that most productive scientists aren't actually doing the work they take credit for.

JackDanielsBlack said...

TR, if you will forgive me for saying so, I think your conclusion here is way off base.

Most scientists, academic or otherwise, are doing actual tangible work that can be replicated by others. Publishing this work is part of their job descriptions and their financial rewards are directly dependent on publication. True, they will often break down results so as to get more papers out of them, but in some cases this is justified. Also, they often work in groups and all members of the group are credited as authors. As a result there are a lot more "authors" running around in the scientific and medical world than in the humanities, because scientists work in teams while humanists are usually on their own. In general, there is also vastly more money to fund scientific and medical research and publication than there is to fund research in the humanities--this is because society deems scientific/medical research more valuable. If you want to know why, just look around you.

Finally, the material you cite is talking only about a subset of the medical research community, yet in your citation you broaden the scope to scientists in general. This is unwarranted and unfair.

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