academic papers as spam.

Luis von Ahn writes about two of my current frustrations:

1. The inefficient, bloated, repetitive academic writing formula, or, my recent absolute boredom at having to write the same thing over and over again in slightly different words.

2. The effect of “publish or perish” on the literature of a field: we are spammed with nearly identical papers on the same research project. Or, rather, we are salamied.

I have spent far too much time comparing papers from the same (or similar) author(s) in order to figure out:

– if they are reporting on the same data;
– if one is reporting on the same project after a bit more data has been collected;
– if they are written from different angles on the same project;
– if either makes any important points or reports findings not present in the other one;
– which one to mark as the preferred one to cite

von Ahn writes:

Given the number of people working in computer science and the fact that publishing papers is considered the goal of our work, there is an insane number of papers written every year, the vast majority of which contribute very little (or not at all) to our collective knowledge. This is basically spam. In fact, for many papers (including some of my own), the actual idea of the paper could be stated in one paragraph, but somehow people manage to write 10 pages of it.

Further, the goal of research should be research, not papers. We need to communicate the results of research, but the existing model is not the best way.

via Academic Productivity

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