Publish or Perish?

In Australia the Prime Minister has recently criticized academic publications,  they aren’t value for money as they don’t directly lead to commercial outcomes, patents etc.

Prime Minister Turnbull wants to end the “publish or perish” culture in which academics are pressured to focus on constant publishing rather than producing work with commercial and community benefit.

Does that mean the government will support open access journals or reduce academic funding? Or transfer that money to STEM and business partnerships?

Under Dr Finkel’s proposal, the amount of revenue generated from industry and other users of research would be used to help determine how university research is funded.

I am afraid it will be the latter. While I am a supporter of closer relationships between universities and business – something our Australian Research Council grant system does not adequately address – there is always a need for non-commercial research.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week told a public forum: “Everyone I talk to thinks that the problem is that academics have got – their incentives are very much associated with publish or perish.”

And if the Prime Minister ever bothered to ask me, I would reply support OPEN ACCESS publications, which are currently not recognized by your Excellence in Research for Australia system!

The problem is more:

  • The reduction of funding to universities even though 20 of our universities are in the top 400 in the world.
  • The Australian government’s lack of funding support for innovation and exchange with the EU’s Horizon 2020!
  • The government reducing funding cuts for research centres and universities (and the government funding to science research hits a 30 year low).
  • The government and university focus on large and time consuming grant applications rather than effective grant applications that are evaluated to ensure they do what they promise and not just say they are new.
  • Grants should be given to people on merit rather than on previous grant success!
  • The government’s determination of national science and research objectives as reliance on pipeline science and technology when
    1. Science is more than just applied manufacturing; it requires critical thinking and fundamental research (not always directly and immediately applied to commercial returns).
    2. International education is Australia’s fourth largest export market.
    3. The Australian coterie of lawyer trained politicians owes its members’ education and subsequent careers to Plato and Aristotle i.e. humanities…
    4. The lack of suitable funding for Australian research infrastructure cripples everyone, scientists and humanities scholars.
    5. Lack of funding into community-based research puts you behind Europe and New Zealand and won’t prepare us for social problems such as potential conflict in the future.

Dramatically and instantly removing funding for publication only further destabilizes the higher education system, creates ruptures between academics here and overseas, and will not encourage academics to come to Australia.

That said, a strategic and thoughtful investigation into research funding and dissemination of results would be most welcome.


Speaking of Open Access here are some of the open access publication schemes NOT recognized by the Excellence in Research for Australia framework:



Thanks to the Open Humanities twitter feed.


2 thoughts on “Publish or Perish?

  1. Thank you for the shout-out for punctum books, but also just for all of the information you’ve compiled here — VERY helpful for those of us working on sustainable platforms for publishing open-access monographs!

    1. Thank you too Eileen. I am currently scoping a project on how 3D heritage/archaeology models (and their sub-components) could link to publications via DOI / URI etc so it would be wonderful if
      a. open access publications both get accepted by our countries’ research frameworks (I am guessing Australian academic societies should push this) and
      b. with the publishers work out criteria they need to provide/show to be accepted as providers of academic outputs
      then maybe one day my idea of 3D models and open access publications in my field (place, heritage) plus all the online directories of digital tools (like could link together dynamically!

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