Junk science: why scientists are forced to 'publish or perish'

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Scientists and research institutions are being dictated to by a system that favours the quantity of scientific papers that get published rather than their quality. The result, say many, has been the gradual decline in the level of scientific scholarship and research in recent years. However, there are now some important initiatives under way to change the way scientists are evaluated for jobs or research grants. As Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis reports, one French researcher has also called for the establishment of a 'slow science' movement to end the trend towards so-called 'junk science'.

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It is a very Darwinian concept: publish or perish. But that is the maxim that governs the world of public scientific research these days. In the scientific community, the main way in which scientists gain recognition, whether among colleagues or their bosses, is through the number of their papers that are published in quality scientific journals.