Published online: July 20, 2018
The oppressive pressure to publish
I had read the editorial by Bandewar et al (1) on the Medical Council of India’s amended requirements for medical teachers with great interest and wish to highlight two issues seldom addressed in Indian academia.
It is not uncommon for new faculty showing serious involvement in their teaching and patient–care related commitments to be warned about their “misplaced priorities” (2). In other words, the number of publications listed is becoming the priority at medical job fairs, and young doctors who are interested in genuine teaching or humane clinical practice are being side-lined in the rat race. Besides, the undue emphasis on publication as a criterion for recruitment prompts authors to perform malpractices like adding the names of their benefactors to the list of authors, amounting to fake authorship and academic nepotism. Assessing the ability of an individual by mere calculation of the H-index without giving weightage to other contributions made at the departmental / institutional / community level, might not yield an accurate evaluation.
How a young doctor turns pessimistic in research
In an Indian study on the views of faculty regarding publication (3), 35% of the respondents felt dejected by undue delays in the publication process. 57.3% of the respondents (3) felt the policy regarding publication induces unhealthy competition. The ideal research process includes the development of a concept, literature review, protocol submission and institute review board clearance, execution of research and writing of the paper and in many peripheral colleges lacking systematic review boards, this process consumes lot of time. It takes another six months to one year to complete the publication cycle. Meanwhile, if another researcher arrives at the same conclusion simultaneously, the one who publishes first gets all the credit. A researcher aiming at a narrow spectrum of prescribed journals, submits his work, waits for months, and finally receives a negative response. After facing three or four rejections, and wasting a year in the publication pipeline, pessimism sets in over their research work. In other words, the stress associated with wanting to publish experimental results before others and in a reputed (of course, “specialty specific”) journal can drain young researchers of much of their interest in practising science and conducting research in its truest sense (4).
The pressure to publish also leads to distorted priorities and the “who gets there first” syndrome (5). This discourages the impulse to share and do things together and pushes one into a kind of “academic espionage” and unhealthy competition which hampers the collegial relationship among faculty (5).
A young doctor should enjoy the bliss of scientific discovery through conducting research and not consider it a burden because of being pressurised to publish.
Dinesh Kumar V ([email protected]), Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry 605 006 INDIA
Conflict of interest and funding: None to declare
- Bandewar SVS, Aggarwal A, Kumar R, Aggarwal R, Sahni P, Pai SA. Medical Council of India’s amended qualifications for Indian medical teachers: Well intended, yet half-hearted. Indian J Med Ethics. 2017 Dec 29; 1-3. doi: 10.20529/IJME.2017.104.
- Green RG. Tenure and promotion decisions: The relative importance of teaching, scholarship and service. J Soc Work Educ. 2008 Summer; 44(2), 117-27.
- Kurdi MS, Ramaswamy AH, Lokare L, Sutagatti JG. Current views and practice of faculty members and consultants regarding “Publications in India”: A cross-sectional study. Indian J Anaesth. 2015 Dec; 59(12):794-800.
- Raff M, Johnson A, Walter P. Painful publishing. Science 2008 Jul 4; 321(5885).:36a.
- Mensah LL. Academic espionage: dysfunctional aspects of the publish or perish ethic. J Adv Nurs. 1982 Nov; 7(6), 577-80.