"...While brilliant and progressive research continues apace here and there, the amount of redundant, inconsequential, and outright poor research has swelled in recent decades
, filling countless pages in journals and monographs. Consider this tally from Science two decades ago: Only 45 percent of the articles published in the 4,500 top scientific journals were cited within the first five years after publication. In recent years, the figure seems to have dropped further. In a 2009 article in Online Information Review, Péter Jacsó found that 40.6 percent of the articles published in the top science and social-science journals (the figures do not include the humanities) were cited in the period 2002 to 2006.
As a result, instead of contributing to knowledge in various disciplines, the increasing number of low-cited publications only adds to the bulk of words and numbers to be reviewed.
Even if read, many articles that are not cited by anyone would seem to contain little useful information. The avalanche of ignored research has a profoundly damaging effect on the enterprise as a whole. Not only does the uncited work itself require years of field and library or laboratory research. It also requires colleagues to read it and provide feedback, as well as reviewers to evaluate it formally for publication. Then, once it is published, it joins the multitudes of other, related publications that researchers must read and evaluate for relevance to their own work. Reviewer time and energy requirements multiply by the year. The impact strikes at the heart of academe.
...The amount of material one must read to conduct a reasonable review of a topic keeps growing. Younger scholars can't ignore any of it—they never know when a reviewer or an interviewer might have written something disregarded—and so they waste precious months reviewing a pool of articles that may lead nowhere.
Experts asked to evaluate manuscripts, results, and promotion files give them less-careful scrutiny or pass the burden along to other, less-competent peers. We all know busy professors who ask Ph.D. students to do their reviewing for them. Questionable work finds its way more easily through the review process and enters into the domain of knowledge. Because of the accelerated pace, the impression spreads that anything more than a few years old is obsolete. Older literature isn't properly appreciated, or is needlessly rehashed in a newer, publishable version. Aspiring researchers are turned into publish-or-perish entrepreneurs, often becoming more or less cynical about the higher ideals of the pursuit of knowledge.
They fashion pathways to speedier publication, cutting corners on methodology and turning to politicking and fawning strategies for acceptance.
...Only if the system of rewards is changed will the avalanche stop. We need policy makers and grant makers to focus not on money for current levels of publication, but rather on finding ways to increase high-quality work and curtail publication of low-quality work. If only some forward-looking university administrators initiated changes in hiring and promotion criteria and ordered their libraries to stop paying for low-cited journals, they would perform a national service. We need to get rid of administrators who reward faculty members on printed pages and downloads alone, deans and provosts "who can't read but can count,"
as the saying goes. Most of all, we need to understand that there is such a thing as overpublication,
and that pushing thousands of researchers to issue mediocre, forgettable arguments and findings is a terrible misuse of human, as well as fiscal, capital.
..but what we surely need is a change in the academic culture that has given rise to the oversupply of journals.
For the fact is that one article with a high citation rating should count more than 10 articles with negligible ratings. Moving to the model that Nature and Science use would have far-reaching and enormously beneficial effects..." We Must Stop the Avalanche of Low-Quality Research - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education