Article Text

How do scientists perceive the current publication culture? A qualitative focus group interview study among Dutch biomedical researchers
  1. J K Tijdink1,2,
  2. K Schipper3,
  3. L M Bouter4,5,
  4. P Maclaine Pont6,
  5. J de Jonge6,
  6. Y M Smulders1
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Psychiatry, Tergooi Hospital, Hilversum, The Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Medical Humanities, VU University Medical Center, EMGO+ Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  5. 5Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  6. 6Rathenau Institute, The Hague, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr J K Tijdink; j.tijdink{at}


Objective To investigate the biomedical scientist's perception of the prevailing publication culture.

Design Qualitative focus group interview study.

Setting Four university medical centres in the Netherlands.

Participants Three randomly selected groups of biomedical scientists (PhD, postdoctoral staff members and full professors).

Main outcome measures Main themes for discussion were selected by participants.

Results Frequently perceived detrimental effects of contemporary publication culture were the strong focus on citation measures (like the Journal Impact Factor and the H-index), gift and ghost authorships and the order of authors, the peer review process, competition, the funding system and publication bias. These themes were generally associated with detrimental and undesirable effects on publication practices and on the validity of reported results. Furthermore, senior scientists tended to display a more cynical perception of the publication culture than their junior colleagues. However, even among the PhD students and the postdoctoral fellows, the sentiment was quite negative. Positive perceptions of specific features of contemporary scientific and publication culture were rare.

Conclusions Our findings suggest that the current publication culture leads to negative sentiments, counterproductive stress levels and, most importantly, to questionable research practices among junior and senior biomedical scientists.

  • EDUCATION & TRAINING (see Medical Education & Training)

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