You know you’re an old fart when you start writing blog posts like the one I’m about to write.  This morning I woke up to a collection of e-mails from various publishers about what a fantastic researcher I am and how successful all my papers are.

I published my first research paper in 1983 in the Kentucky Academy of Sciences to report my undergraduate research.  Since then I have published >100 papers.  This morning I got an update on the third paper I published (that is in 1987) from my Masters thesis at the University of Kentucky.  To quote from the e-mail:

Check out your Research Dashboard, a new service which allows you to track usage and citations of your recent article “The effects of density and relative size on the aggressive behaviour, movement and feeding of damselfly larvae (Odonata: Coenagrionidae)”, published in Animal Behaviour.

My “recent” article?  Let me reiterate – this is a paper I published in 1987!  That’s 28 years ago, and they want me to see how well it’s doing this morning.  Animal Behaviour is a highly respected scientific journal, but the current publisher , Elsevier, sends me this e-mail simply to push up traffic to their website so they can charge higher advertising rates.  

I also got an e-mail this morning from Akadémiai Kiadó to tell me that:

It is our pleasure to inform you that your remarkable article has been cited in Community Ecology published by Akadémiai Kiadó.

This is obviously a predatory journal.  If you want evidence thereof, follow the above link to the journal that published this paper (Community Ecology) citing my paper, and read the text on the home page.  It is filled with the “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet …” dummy text that web designers use to illustrate layouts so that viewers focus on the layout and not the specific text!

Then there’s ResearchGate.  I’ve gotten three e-mails from ResearchGate so far today.  One said I had reached a milestone, another said I had achieved top status by being”the most cited researcher” from my department this month, and the third gave me statistics on how many countries were represented among the people who have read my papers this month.

Journals are also inventing new ways to lure people into this game.  Journals are starting to develop metrics and reporting to authors how many times their paper has been ReTweeted or Liked on Facebook.  In fact, I have seen people start reporting such metrics about every paper on their CVs in job applications (I count this as a mark against).  Impact factors and citation indices were one thing, but this is getting quite ridiculous.

Why do any of us care about this?  Is this making science better or scientists more productive?  All of this is simply turning everything into a game where we all compete for eyeballs.  Science publishing used to be objective reporting of scientific knowledge.  Now it’s turning into a marketing game that serves no useful purpose for science, and in many ways is corroding the core of science.

OK, back to writing my next paper, right after I unsubscribe from getting all this crap.

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