Randy Schekman, a Nobel-prize winning biologist, is refusing to publish in Nature, Cell, and Science as a protest agains the way top science journals push shoddy, flashy research. The Guardian reports on this latest flare up over how scientific research is published:
Schekman said pressure to publish in “luxury” journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favoured studies that were likely to make a splash.
We’re glad to see experts in the field calling attention to this problem. The race for immediately exciting or actionable science has lead to lots of “bunk science” that other scientists are often unable to later verify. The costs of this are enormous. It sends us down a lot of false alleys, fueling flashy but superficial headlines in the popular press and giving cover to bad politics. But most importantly it means resources and energies are been subtly but surely directed away from research that makes for less click bait headlines but is nevertheless vitally important to innovation and scientific progress.Ultimately the peer review system appears fundamentally good, so any reform of these practices will probably have to come from within the field and within current mechanisms. Sheckman’s protest might just be a flash in the pan, but if it’s indicative of any sort of wider frustration in the field, other leading scientists might be able to bring some collective pressure on journals to tighten publishing standards. That would be a huge service not only to their field, but to America as a whole.