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[ RESEARCH INTEGRITY ] December 6, 2023

The problem with the pressure to publish

With integrity concerns on the rise, the burning question is: How do we escape the "publish or perish" trap before it’s too late?

When did the pressure start to build?

In the early days of academia, scholars enjoyed the luxury of time for research, prioritizing quality over quantity. Following World War II, increased government funding led to the expansion of research institutions. This elevated the importance of academic journals and papers and led to an increase in the volume of published research. 

As time went on, the increase of academic journals created more opportunities for publication, fostering a competitive drive among scholars. Metrics like the Impact Factor reinforced the pressure to publish in high-impact journals for academic prestige, as heightened global connectivity gave rise to intensifying competition and publication pressure. The link between research productivity and funding, promotions, and evaluations strengthened, with publication metrics becoming key criteria.

Today, with over 5.14 million academic articles being published annually worldwide, competition is increasing and so are predatory entities, like paper-mills that prey on desperate researchers and threaten research integrity.

It's time to address the pressure to publish in research—so how do we do it?


The current state of publication pressure

"Publish or perish '' is not just a mantra; it's a warning about the unrelenting pressure to flood the scholarly arena with papers. Currently in academia, quantity is the name of the game, and it’s tied to the vague promises of advancement, tenure, grants, and acclaim. 

Our 2023 Research Integrity survey highlights this issue, with 39% of respondents citing publication pressure as the primary research integrity challenge, with a further 24% ranking it second.

But, the pressure to publish can sway authors to cut corners, commit misconduct, or unintentionally be remiss when editing their work. In the midst of this intense environment, predatory conferences and journals exploit researchers seeking opportunities to connect and share ideas. These entities often target and deplete the resources of early-career researchers and individuals from low-income backgrounds who are eager to gain professional experience, simultaneously stealing revenue from genuine research, journals, and conferences.

In 1963, physicist and science historian Derek de Solla Price foresaw a "scientific doomsday" as the number of scientists and publications had been growing exponentially for 250 years, and Price realized that the trend was unsustainable as it compromised quality. Fast forward to 2023, where integrity cases abound, and as our survey noted, over two thirds of participants believe research misconduct is the biggest issue facing scholarly publishing.

Today's integrity challenges are intricately linked to the pressure to publish, and the academic community needs to proactively take measures to stop this trend.


What does the future hold?

Can AI-driven technology potentially alleviate the relentless pressure to publish?

Within the academic world, opinions on AI generative text are varied. The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) took a stance earlier this year, with a policy that prohibits papers featuring text generated from large-scale language models like ChatGPT.

Our recent Research Integrity survey revealed diverse perspectives when it comes to AI-generated text:  17% advocate for universal acceptance, while 40% endorse regulation. On the flip side, 12% firmly reject the idea of its acceptance, and 15% suggest its use should be limited to supplementary materials.

Despite the mixed feelings surrounding AI, it holds significant promise in streamlining the scholarly publishing process, specifically manuscript writing, and affording authors more time, free from the influence of publication pressure. This is particularly beneficial for non-native English speakers, who can use these tools to potentially mitigate language bias in the peer review process.



At Morressier, we champion the potential of cutting-edge technologies. In an era and landscape where publication pressure is damaging academia, we are invigorated by the prospect of automated technologies that can liberate time and resources within the scholarly community, alleviating the pressure to publish. 

Our AI-driven tools harmonize our vision with robust solutions, aiming to elevate human potential rather than overpower it.