Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1431–1446 | Cite as

Analyzing the Publish-or-Perish Paradigm with Game Theory: The Prisoner’s Dilemma and a Possible Escape

Original Paper

Abstract

The publish-or-perish paradigm is a prevailing facet of science. We apply game theory to show that, under rather weak assumptions, this publication scenario takes the form of a prisoner’s dilemma, which constitutes a substantial obstacle to beneficial delayed publication of more complete results. One way of avoiding this obstacle while allowing researchers to establish priority of discoveries would be an updated “pli cacheté”, a sealed envelope concept from the 1700s. We describe institutional rules that could additionally favour high-quality work and publications and provide examples of such policies that are already in place. Our analysis should be extended to other publication scenarios and the role of other stakeholders such as scientific journals or sponsors.

Keywords

Publish-or perish Game theory Prisoner’s dilemma Pli cacheté Priority Quality 

References

  1. Angell, M. (1986). Publish or perish: A proposal. Annals of Internal Medicine, 104, 261–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anonymous. (1938). Association of American Colleges Bulletin, 24.Google Scholar
  3. Anonymous. (2000). Sur l’équation de Kolmogoroff, Pli cacheté déposé le 26 février 1940, ouvert le 18 mai 2000. CR Acad Sci Paris, S.I., 331:1031–1187.Google Scholar
  4. Anonymous. (2010). Publish or perish. Nature, 467:252.Google Scholar
  5. Bernhard, C. G. (1967). Award Ceremony Speech. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: Ragnar Granit, Haldan K. Hartline, George Wald. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1967/press.html
  6. Broad, W. J. (1981). The publishing game: Getting more for less. Science, 211, 1137–1139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cahn, R. W. (1989). Materials science—Aluminum-based glassy alloys. Nature, 341, 183–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, A. (1983). A cache of 18th-century strings. The Galpin Society Journal, 36, 37–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Coolidge, H. J., & Lord, R. H. (1932). Archibald Cary Coolidge: Life and letters (Vol. 308). Freeport: Books for Libraries Press.Google Scholar
  10. DFG. (2010). Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 11 | 26. Februar 2010. Neuregelungen für Publikationsverzeichnisse in Anträgen, Antragsskizzen und Abschlussberichten. http://www.dfg.de/foerderung/info_wissenschaft/2010/info_wissenschaft_10_11/index.html
  11. Erren, T. C. (2007). Judging words rather than journals or authors: A reminder that peer review continues after publication. QJM, 100, 799–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Erren, T. C. (2009). On establishing priority of ideas: Revisiting the “pli cachete” (deposition of a sealed envelope). Medical Hypotheses, 72, 8–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Erren, T. C., Shaw, D. M, & Gross, J. V. (2015). How to avoid haste and waste in occupational, environmental and public health research. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 69(9), 823–825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fudenberg, D., & Tirole, J. (1991). Game theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gad-el-Hak, M. (2004). Publish or perish—An ailing enterprise? Physics Today, 57, 61–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Garfield, E. (1996). What is the primordial reference for the phrase ‘publish or perish’? Scientist, 10, 11.Google Scholar
  17. Hull, D., Pettifer, S. R., & Kell, D. B. (2008). Defrosting the digital library: Bibliographic tools for the next generation web. PLoS Computational Biology, 4, e1000204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ioannidis, J. P., & Khoury, M. J. (2014). Assessing value in biomedical research: The PQRST of appraisal and reward. JAMA, 312, 483–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. ISI Web of Knowledge. (2015a). CitedReferenceSearch: Hartline HK. Citation Report: 48. h-index: 21.Google Scholar
  20. ISI Web of Knowledge. (2015b). CitedReferenceSearch: Higgs PW. Citation Report: 22. h-index: 10.Google Scholar
  21. Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometria, 47, 263–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Moseley, E. T., Hsu, D. J., Stone, D. J., et al. (2014). Beyond open big data: Addressing unreliable research. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16, e259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Neill, U. S. (2008). Publish or perish, but at what cost? The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 118, 2368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. NIH. US National Institutes of Health. (2014). Changes to the Biosketch. http://nexus.od.nih.gov/all/2014/05/22/changes-to-the-biosketch/
  25. Poundstone, W. (1993). Prisoner’s dilemma. Garden city: Anchor.Google Scholar
  26. Research Excellence Framework. (2014). Assessment framework and guidance on submissions. http://www.ref.ac.uk/pubs/2011-02/
  27. Shaw, D. (2012). Unethical framework. In Times Higher Education, 26th Jan 2012.Google Scholar
  28. Spence, M. (1973). Job market signaling. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 87, 355–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Trimble, S. W. (2010). Reward quality not quantity. Nature, 467, 789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. von Neumann, J. (1928). Zur Theorie der Gesellschaftsspiele. English edition (1959) (trans: Tucker, A. W., & Luce, R. D., Eds.), “On the theory of games of strategy”, contributions to the theory of games (vol. 4, pp. 13–42). Mathematische Annalen 100:295–320.Google Scholar
  31. von Neumann, J. (1944). Theory of games and economic behavior. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  32. White, M. (2002). Rivals—Conflict as the fuel of science. London: Vintage, Random House.Google Scholar
  33. Wilson, L. (1942). The academic man: A study in the sociology of a profession. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute and Policlinic for Occupational Medicine, Environmental Medicine and Prevention ResearchUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Biomedical EthicsUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.Institute for Occupational Epidemiology and Risk Assessment (IERA)Evonik Industries AGEssenGermany

Personalised recommendations