PUBLISH OR PUBLISH was created in 2016. It takes a critical look to the sheer amount of studies published every year in the field of Psychology in a rather unusual way. It was published on publishorpublish.com and BoredPanda!
Nowadays research is all about publications. Scientific careers are measured in numbers of publications. It’s a simple formula. The more studies you publish, the more influence you have, the more money you make. This phenomenon is described as publish or perish. If we look at the number of publications in the field of Psychology from 1950 till today we see an enormous rise of studies. Every 10 years the research output increases by a factor of approx. 1.8. Or in other words: Every decade we double our knowledge. But, do we?
Let’s talk about ideas. Peter Higgs identified the Higgs boson in 1964. He retired from the University of Edinburgh in 1996. During that time he published fewer than 10 papers. That’s practically one study every three years. It’s no wonder he thinks he “wouldn’t be productive enough for today’s academic system“. So, no, researchers don’t generate so much new knowledge and ideas. Basically they publish every little piece of research they have. When you take a closer look at all the studies published every month there a rarely unique ones. Some are in a way obsolete. Others confirm things we already know. And there are also these kind of studies only waiting for a special award. Long story short: Too many useless studies.
But, because we love science, PUBLISH OR PUBLISH thought about a way to give those studies at least some meaning. And we came up with a brilliant idea. Here’s what we did:
- We searched for completely pointless studies using PsycINFO. PsycINFO is a database for literature in the field of psychology. Why this database? Well, let’s say psychology has a knack for publishing weird things. How was pointless defined? If the conclusion of a study was something like “When you brush your teeth they get cleaner.”, then they were in.
- We downloaded every reference from PsycINFO published between 2010 and 2016. These were approx. 250000 studies.
- We cited every word of our pointless study by using those references. This led to thousands of references for only one single study.
Here are links to the transformed studies:
First of all, these pointless studies are actually fun to read. However at second glance you realize they don’t discover anything important which raises the question: What’s this kind of research for? This question gets even more important if you imagine: We’ve cited every (!) word of these studies by referring to other studies which were published only within the last 6(!) years and even in the same field. If one study should be equal to one unique idea than this should definitely not work. Researches are bright minds but their brains are simply not that shiny. So, to come to a conclusion here: Somethings very wrong in nowadays research system. We are confronted by a mass publication system which suppresses the development of new ideas. One day science kill or save you. Right now, it’s just getting fatter.