When the scientific publication is an illusion

Imagine strolling through a bustling market, where everyone is busy exchanging goods with paper and coins, fully believing that this swapping is fair and valuable. We all agree that these papers and metals—money—hold value, even though in reality, they are just ordinary objects whose intrinsic worth is far from what we believe. We live within this shared agreement, a collective illusion that allows our society to function and thrive.

Now, think of the academic world as a marketplace of knowledge, where the currency is not money but scholarly publications. Here, academics ‘buy’ reputation and recognition by ‘spending’ through articles and research they publish. Like money, the value of these publications largely relies on an agreement—that they add value to the human knowledge bank. Yet, if we delve deeper, we might begin to wonder: Do scholarly publications truly have the intrinsic value that we believe in?

In academia, we often focus on scientific publications as the main yardstick of progress and success. We’re trained to pursue publications from early on, thinking that they are crucial for career advancement, acknowledgment, and even job stability. However, like money which only holds value because we agree it does; many scientific publications may not truly impact or significantly contribute to science. They gain importance simply because we believe they do.

We’re stuck in this illusion for various reasons. Scientific research, like money, facilitates the exchange of ideas and knowledge. It provides a way to assess and preserve our ‘intellectual wealth’. Our social and academic structure is built on the understanding that publication is valuable currency, and from a young age, academics are taught to appreciate and delve into publications as a symbol of success.

But perhaps it’s time for us to question and contemplate this value system. Do we need to keep evaluating scientific and academic progress only through the number of publications? Or are there other ways to appreciate contributions that truly have an impact and meaning?

Seeing scholarly publications as a mirage doesn’t imply disregarding the significance of knowledge sharing. Instead, it encourages rethinking what we prioritize and how we can create a more comprehensive and influential knowledge framework. Maybe it’s time for us to reconsider what holds importance in academia, much like currency that keeps changing its worth.