A different take on Dr Jarrod Gilbert et al and their research

Never fear – there is no climate change problem!

In fact the problem is the reverse in a way.  Very few read academic papers at all.  Which is why the academics release ridiculous press statements pushing their point of view.  At least then someone knows that they actually have an idea at all.  However it would appear to do no harm unless it is politicised.  Then the occasional politician who wants to spend money and “make their mark” might have something supporting the barrow they want to push.

Studies about reading studies go back more than two decades!

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There are a lot of scientific papers out there. One estimate puts the count at 1.8 million articles published each year, in about 28,000 journals. Who actually reads those papers? According to one 2007 study, not many people: half of academic papers are read only by their authors and journal editors, the study’s authors write.

But not all academics accept that they have an audience of three. There’s a heated dispute around academic readership and citation—enough that there have been studies about reading studies going back for more than two decades.

In the 2007 study, the authors introduce their topic by noting that “as many as 50% of papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors.” They also claim that 90 percent of papers published are never cited. Some academics are unsurprised by these numbers. “I distinctly remember focusing not so much on the hyper-specific nature of these research topics, but how it must feel as an academic to spend so much time on a topic so far on the periphery of human interest,” writes Aaron Gordon at Pacific Standard. “Academia’s incentive structure is such that it’s better to publish something than nothing,” he explains, even if that something is only read by you and your reviewers.

But not everybody agrees these numbers are fair. The claim that half of papers are never cited comes first from a paper from 1990. “Statistics compiled by the Philadelphia-based Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)indicate that 55% of the papers published between 1981 and 1985 in journals indexed by the institute received no citations at all in the 5 years after they were published,” David P. Hamilton wrote in Science.

 

– Frances Denz MNZM


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