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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"Publish Or Perish" May Discourage Innovative Research

Pressure to ‘Publish or Perish’ May Discourage Innovative Research, UCLA Study Suggests

The researchers’ conclusions are drawn from a database they assembled of more than 6 million scholarly publications in biomedicine and chemistry

Phil Hampton | October 8, 2015

The traditional pressure in academia for faculty to “publish or perish” advances knowledge in established areas. But it also might discourage scientists from asking the innovative questions that are most likely to lead to the biggest breakthroughs, according to a new study spearheaded by a UCLA professor.
Researchers have long faced a natural tension and tradeoff when deciding whether to build on accumulated knowledge in a field or pursue a bold new idea that challenges established thinking. UCLA assistant professor of sociology Jacob Foster and his co-authors describe it as a conflict between “productive tradition” and “risky innovation.”  

"'Published papers that make a novel connection are rare but more highly rewarded," said Foster, the study's lead author. "So what accounts for scientists' disposition to pursue tradition over innovation? Our evidence points to a simple explanation: Innovative research is a gamble whose payoff, on average, does not justify the risk. It's not a reliable way to accumulate scientific reward.' "

<more at; related links: (Jacob Foster. Assistant Professor) and (Tradition and Innovation in Scientists’ Research Strategies. Jacob G. Foster, Andrey Rzhetsky, and James A. Evans. American Sociological Review, October 2015, vol. 80, no. 5, pp. 875-908. Published online before print September 1, 2015, doi: 10.1177/0003122415601618. [Abstract: What factors affect a scientist’s choice of research problem? Qualitative research in the history and sociology of science suggests that this choice is patterned by an “essential tension” between productive tradition and risky innovation. We examine this tension through Bourdieu’s field theory of science, and we explore it empirically by analyzing millions of biomedical abstracts from MEDLINE. We represent the evolving state of chemical knowledge with networks extracted from these abstracts. We then develop a typology of research strategies on these networks. Scientists can introduce novel chemicals and chemical relationships (innovation) or delve deeper into known ones (tradition). They can consolidate knowledge clusters or bridge them. The aggregate distribution of published strategies remains remarkably stable. High-risk innovation strategies are rare and reflect a growing focus on established knowledge. An innovative publication is more likely to achieve high impact than a conservative one, but the additional reward does not compensate for the risk of failing to publish. By studying prizewinners in biomedicine and chemistry, we show that occasional gambles for extraordinary impact are a compelling explanation for observed levels of risky innovation. Our analysis of the essential tension identifies institutional forces that sustain tradition and suggests policy interventions to foster innovation.])>

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