Tag Archives: Scholarly publishing

“Avalanche control” in scientific literature: A role for informatics

In “We Must Stop the Avalanche of Low-Quality Research,” it is claimed that much of the scientific research literature published recently is “redundant, inconsequential, and outright poor” and that “research has swelled in recent decades, filling countless pages in journals and monographs.” “Countless” is intended in a negative sense here. No argument is provided for the first claim, unless the claims about frequency of citation—generally very low, if at all, for any paper in the literature—are to be taken as an argument that recent literature is poor in quality. It does seem clear that the authors believe that there is too much literature, and it seems to me that their claims and arguments that there is too much literature might be just as strong if it weren’t paired with the argument that the literature is generally low in quality.

Taking a larger view, the problem is probably worse than the “Avalanche” authors suggest. A prominent case in point: the Biodiversity Heritage Library, whose holdings amount at present to 30,512,292 pages in 80,976 volumes, is growing daily, and more and more libraries are joining the project, including those in Europe and the Pacific rim. (Perhaps the “Avalanche” authors would find this reassuring. Back in the good old days, when men were real men (and women didn’t do science), only what was worth reading was published, and everyone read it.) Nonetheless, finding works relevant to a given topic is difficult and will become more so.

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