Young scientists often produce negative results. All experiments were done correctly – but there was no difference between test and control. They get conflicting advice from supervisors and ethicists. Some say that publishing negative results is a waste of resources and ruins their careers. Others say that ‘not publishing negative results is unethical’ and promotes the reproducibility crisis. What should young scientists do in such a situation?
Being a professor is amazing: a lot of academic freedom to investigate and teach very interesting subjects and a considerable and secure salary until retirement. However, the way in which to obtain this position can be pretty hard and more than 90% of all PhD holders find a job *outside* of academia.
If you want to become a professor how do you qualify?
Impact factors are heavily criticized as measures of scientific quality. However, they still dominate every discussion about scientific excellence. They are still used to select candidates for positions as PhD student, postdoc and academic staff, to promote professors and to select grant proposals for funding. As a consequence, researchers tend to adapt their publication strategy to avoid negative impact on their careers. Until alternative methods to measure excellence are established, young researchers have to learn the “rules of the game”.
However, young scientists often need advice how to reach higher impact factors with their publications.
Young scientists often get conflicting advice on how they should publish. Every generation of young scientists has to address similar questions: Should I publish several smaller papers or should I focus on one big paper with a high impact factor? What is the effect of my publication strategy on my career and the possibility to raise grant money? How important is my publication list for a non-academic career?
There is a huge body of scientific evidence that happy team members produce better results. However, the majority of PhD students and postdocs is stressed by peer pressure, high demands by their supervisors, potentially insufficient supervision and a high degree of uncertainty about their future career. Is it better to make them all happy?
One of the unspoken rules in research is that a successful career in science is only possible with one or more papers with an impact factor above 10 or higher. This belief creates a lot of peer pressure among young scientists and may be even one of the causes of increasing numbers of scientific fraud cases. But is it true?