ESEP 8:41-44 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/esep00083

The economics of post-doc publishing

William W. L. Cheung*

Sea Around Us Project, Fisheries Centre, the University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada

ABSTRACT: The use of bibliometrics (e.g. citation index and impact factors) in measuring academic research performances can affect the publication strategy of researchers. Such effects may be particularly potent to young researchers who are at a transitional stage of their academic career. This paper explores how bibliometrics affect the publication strategy from a point of view of a post-doctoral fellow, with analogy and explanation from simple economic theories. A major objective of post-doctoral fellowship is preparation for an academic career, which includes building up publication records and academic reputation; both are related to bibliometrics and publications. The need to achieve these objectives in the relatively short time period of the fellowship is analogous to putting a high discount rate on the benefits from future publications and networking. This may affect the researcher’s choice of focus and journal in which to publish. Specifically, ethnic minorities in the English-dominated science community may need to develop special publication strategies. My experiences of being a post-doc in the field of fisheries science are drawn upon for illustration. Excessive focus on building publication records may lead to over-bias towards choosing high-impact journals for publication, violation of publication ethics, and unbalanced development of writing skills. It is important for young scientists to recognize the multitude of objectives of our academic works and try to achieve a balanced portfolio of these objectives.


KEY WORDS: Post-doctoral fellow · Academic publishing · Impact factor · Academic career · Discount rate


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Cite this article as: Cheung WWL (2008) The economics of post-doc publishing. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 8:41-44

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