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The Perils of Bite Sized Science

Posted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:12 pm
by edfrank

This post was made to the ITRDBFOR a few days ago. I thought the article referenced might deserve a read and some discussion. The authors of the article in the NY Times ... ce.html?hp are vehemently opposed to a trend for publication of shorter papers:
IN recent years, a trend has emerged in the behavioral sciences toward shorter and more rapidly published journal articles. These articles are often only a third the length of a standard paper, often describe only a single study and tend to include smaller data sets. Shorter formats are promoted by many journals, and limits on article length are stringent — in many cases as low as 2,000 words.
I am not so sure. I see that publication of results of observations and data quickly to be helpful to other researchers. Shorter research notes allow the small scale projects to be published. Otherwise material not suitable for publication in a longer paper may languish in a drawer for years, if it ever is published at all. We need the longer formats as well to allow a deeper evaluation of larger data sets and ideas, but I don't think that shorter formats is the end of the world as suggested in the article. Shorter formats serve a need that is not adequately being filled by longer format journals.
Dear colleagues:

I would listen, specially from the people with a large trajectory in
tree-ring research, different opinions about this: ... ce.html?hp

For me an important question in Science is the self-satisfaction that proceed of intellectual stimulation. In other words, for many persons (specially for Latin mentalities) is not too much stimulating to do the same paper 255 times ;-). Obviously, discipline is important but this is in conflict with intellectual stimulation. Certain persons prefer to publish in different related areas and enjoy of the process of "continuous learning" !!! This produce a profile of "deep generalist" with a wide vision that could be very interesting when you connect to this "creative person" with a group of "deep specialist". Probably this is a terrible mistake or probably not. For these persons science is more a hobby that a business but probably this is an effect of certain public system of Universities in certain Latin countries that are more focused to teaching and where research is a secondary question... Also, I believe that the center too much focused in certain areas could be losing certain interdisciplinary approach. In short, I prefer to use a morning reading a lot of question about different topics ... Sometimes I remember that I must publish something ;-) I am sorry very much if this question disturb to the list but I am very interested in all the aspects that concern to the best use of human resources in research because I see huge potentialities to increase the social benefits and application to research.

Best Regards,

Daniel Patón Domínguez
Numerical Ecology. Ecology Unit
Department of Plant Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences
Faculty of Sciences. University of Extremadura
Avda. Elvas s/n 06071 Badajoz (Spain)

Re: The Perils of Bite Sized Science

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 11:36 pm
by Chris
I really don't see the downside to smaller papers. Actually, at least in my experience, many of the most cited papers tend to be shorter ones rather than some 35 page tome. At the very least, more people will read a 5 pages [or read it years later to refresh themselves] than will read 35.

Re: The Perils of Bite Sized Science

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:24 am
by Lee Frelich
Ed, Chris:

I think a combination of short and long papers is best. There are a lot of interesting topics that can be done in short papers, and short papers have always been welcome in forestry/forest ecology literature. However, there are also some topics where the complexities are tied together and longer papers, like those in Ecological Monographs, are necessary. My Ecological Monograph papers have more citations than other shorter papers, almost as if people are search for certain points to be made so they can cite a source, and long papers have more such nuggets for people to cite. My experience indicates that trends for forest ecology literature might not be the same as in the general scientific literature.