We can regard the wider incentive structures that operate across science, such as the priority given to novel findings, as an ecosystem within which scientists strive to maximise their fitness (i.e., publication record and career success). Here, we develop an optimality model that predicts the most rational research strategy, in terms of the proportion of research effort spent on seeking novel results rather than on confirmatory studies, and the amount of research effort per exploratory study. We show that, for parameter values derived from the scientific literature, researchers acting to maximise their fitness should spend most of their effort seeking novel results and conduct small studies that have only 10%-40% statistical power. As a result, half of the studies they publish will report erroneous conclusions. Current incentive structures are in conflict with maximising the scientific value of research; we suggest ways that the scientific ecosystem could be improved.
Inaccurate data in scientific papers can result from honest error or intentional falsification. This study attempted to determine the percentage of published papers that contain inappropriate image duplication, a specific type of inaccurate data. The images from a total of 20,621 papers published in 40 scientific journals from 1995 to 2014 were visually screened. Overall, 3.8% of published papers contained problematic figures, with at least half exhibiting features suggestive of deliberate manipulation. The prevalence of papers with problematic images has risen markedly during the past decade. Additional papers written by authors of papers with problematic images had an increased likelihood of containing problematic images as well. As this analysis focused only on one type of data, it is likely that the actual prevalence of inaccurate data in the published literature is higher. The marked variation in the frequency of problematic images among journals suggests that journal practices, such as prepublication image screening, influence the quality of the scientific literature.
Peer-reviewed publications focusing on climate change are growing exponentially with the consequence that the uptake and influence of individual papers varies greatly. Here, we derive metrics of narrativity from psychology and literary theory, and use these metrics to test the hypothesis that more narrative climate change writing is more likely to be influential, using citation frequency as a proxy for influence. From a sample of 732 scientific abstracts drawn from the climate change literature, we find that articles with more narrative abstracts are cited more often. This effect is closely associated with journal identity: higher-impact journals tend to feature more narrative articles, and these articles tend to be cited more often. These results suggest that writing in a more narrative style increases the uptake and influence of articles in climate literature, and perhaps in scientific literature more broadly.
Neuroscience is increasingly being called upon to address issues within the humanities. We discuss challenges that arise, relating to art and beauty, and provide ideas for a way forward.
The last few years have seen the proliferation of measures that quantify the scientific output of researchers. Yet, most of these measures focus on productivity, thus fostering the “publish or perish” paradigm. This article proposes a measure that aims at quantifying the impact of research de-emphasizing productivity, thus providing scientists an alternative, conceivably fairer, evaluation of their work. The measure builds from a published manuscript, the literature’s most basic building block. The impact of an article is defined as the number of lead authors that have been influenced by it. Thus, the measure aims at quantifying the manuscript’s reach, putting emphasis on scientists rather than on raw citations. The measure is then extrapolated to researchers and institutions.
In recent years, penile traction therapy (PTT) has gained considerable interest as a novel nonsurgical treatment option for men with Peyronie’s disease (PD) and short penises. The current published literature suggests that selected cases of PD may benefit from a conservative approach with PTT, resulting in increased penile length and reduction of penile deformity. It appears to be safe and well tolerated but requires a great deal of patient compliance and determination. This article reviews the current literature pertaining to the use of PTT in men with PD, short penises and in the setting of pre- and postprosthesis corporal fibrosis.
INTRODUCTION: The Borderline Intellectual Functioning (BIF) is conceptualized as the frontier that delimits “normal” intellectual functioning from intellectual disability (IQ 71-85). In spite of its magnitude, its prevalence cannot be quantified and its diagnosis has not yet been defined. OBJECTIVES: To elaborate a conceptual framework and to establish consensus guidelines. METHOD: A mixed qualitative methodology, including frame analysis and nominal groups techniques, was used. The literature was extensively reviewed in evidence based medical databases, scientific publications, and the grey literature. This information was studied and a framing document was prepared. RESULTS: Scientific publications covering BIF are scarce. The term that yields a bigger number of results is “Borderline Intelligence”. The Working Group detected a number of areas in which consensus was needed and wrote a consensus document covering the conclusions of the experts and the framing document. CONCLUSIONS: It is a priority to reach an international consensus about the BIF construct and its operative criteria, as well as to develop specific tools for screening and diagnosis. It is also necessary to define criteria that enable its incidence and prevalence. To know what interventions are the most efficient, and what are the needs of this population, is vital to implement an integral model of care centred on the individual.
Understanding others' mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies. Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind (ToM), in adults. We present five experiments showing that reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective ToM (experiments 1 to 5) and cognitive ToM (experiments 4 and 5) compared with reading nonfiction (experiments 1), popular fiction (experiments 2 to 5), or nothing at all (experiments 2 and 5). Specifically, these results show that reading literary fiction temporarily enhances ToM. More broadly, they suggest that ToM may be influenced by engagement with works of art.
In a 2005 paper that has been accessed more than a million times, John Ioannidis explained why most published research findings were false. Here he revisits the topic, this time to address how to improve matters. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Debates over the pros and cons of a “publish or perish” philosophy have inflamed academia for at least half a century. Growing concerns, in particular, are expressed for policies that reward “quantity” at the expense of “quality,” because these might prompt scientists to unduly multiply their publications by fractioning (“salami slicing”), duplicating, rushing, simplifying, or even fabricating their results. To assess the reasonableness of these concerns, we analyzed publication patterns of over 40,000 researchers that, between the years 1900 and 2013, have published two or more papers within 15 years, in any of the disciplines covered by the Web of Science. The total number of papers published by researchers during their early career period (first fifteen years) has increased in recent decades, but so has their average number of co-authors. If we take the latter factor into account, by measuring productivity fractionally or by only counting papers published as first author, we observe no increase in productivity throughout the century. Even after the 1980s, adjusted productivity has not increased for most disciplines and countries. These results are robust to methodological choices and are actually conservative with respect to the hypothesis that publication rates are growing. Therefore, the widespread belief that pressures to publish are causing the scientific literature to be flooded with salami-sliced, trivial, incomplete, duplicated, plagiarized and false results is likely to be incorrect or at least exaggerated.