Archive for the ‘Bibliometrics’ Category

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The Selfish Academic

May 15, 2017

On Friday, I published the results of a study that have been gestating for many, many years. I’ve wanted to look at this issue ever since I first read Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene in an animal behaviour course back at the University of Stirling in the late nineties (pause to feel old). Briefly, Dawkins looked at the citation rates of key papers in the development of the gene-centric view of evolution that he himself championed. It was a neat study and the data he presented seemed to support the argument he was making but, somewhat frustratingly, this analysis was not updated in the third edition, released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the the book in 2006.

At the time I remember wondering whether another 20 years of citation data might have changed Dawkins’ conclusions and when I heard about the upcoming release of the 40th anniversary edition, it reignited my interest. I waited to see whether the analysis had been updated with citation data from the subsequent three decades and was mildly pleased to see it still hadn’t, as it gave me something to write about!

I published the paper at the relatively new, gold open access journal Publications from open access publisher MDPI. The peer-review process was thorough and the reviewers clearly knew their field and after some revision the paper was accepted, at which point things went into warp-speed and the paper was available online within 48 hours, after a proof-read by myself.

Amazingly, almost immediately after it was published, I received an email from CrossRef saying that they had received notification that I had published something and would like to auto-update my ORCID record with information about it. This was a great example of cross-plaform integration in action, with the publisher including my ORCID alongside the traditional citation metadata. I wish more of my academic colleagues were more open to Open Access, but sadly they are still concerned only with publishing in traditional, closed-access journals because those are the journals with the highest impact factor (although everyone seems to agree that the impact factor is hogwash). This simply perpetuates the monopoly enjoyed by a few publishing houses on intellectual property that is generated by, reviewed by, edited by and used by academics that are largely working for free.

The internet is now several decades old and yet we are still no closer to consigning traditional subscription journals to the scrapheap of history. And it is largely the fault of game theory amongst us Selfish Academics.

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