Faulty practice in [insert name of science]

A fellow Ukrainian sociologist drew my attention to a recent article written by a Polish ornitologist. Tomasz Wesołowski works at the Laboratory of Forest Biology, Wrocław University and has nothing to do with sociology. However, he tackles an issue that threatens to undermine the integrity of other contemporary academic fields: the structures and rules used to measure the quality of academic research:

“… The authors intending to publish many papers in the most prestigious journals tend to frame titles using very broad terms to overestimate their importance and overgeneralise the results. Exploratory, observational, studies are undervalued (treated as a sort of inferior science, not deserving publication in high-profile journals). Field studies are done and published by people without basic field skills/taxonomic knowledge (an especially acute problem in poorly known tropical regions). Moreover, field procedures are inadequately described (others cannot evaluate the quality of work and replicate the study if necessary). Field data can be underreported (biological data in the results section are replaced by outcomes of statistical analyses). Proper credit to earlier work is missing. Many authors tend to ignore earlier sources and refer only to the most recently published papers. I think it is possible to relieve the discussed problems. In order to do so, we have to “dethrone” publications, cease to treat them as if they were the purpose of scientific work and the sole measures of scientific output. To improve the situation, we also have to require that journal editors (1) modify the list of requirements distributed in Guidelines for the authors to include aspects crucial for proper documentation; (2) extend the list of questions which referees have to address, to include the above aspects as well, and (3) consistently reject all submissions not fulfilling these minima. Additionally, the journals would have to stop promoting unsubstantial quality criteria, e.g. “impact factors”.”

Wesołowski T. 2012. Faulty practice in field biology – what should be done?. www.forestbiology.org/articles/FB_01: 1-7, last accessed 2 April 2013.

Read the article here: www.forestbiology.org/articles/FB_01: 1-7

Danger: protected by..? (Photo: Idle Ethnorgapher TM)

Danger: protected by..? (Photo: Idle Ethnorgapher TM)

Categories: Higher Education

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