Chronicle of a researcher part 3 : the complexity of the publishing system

Above all, Research is the exercise of a passion, nonetheless scientists are not exempt from imperatives, including publication. Indeed, on the one hand, this process allows young doctoral students to obtain more legitimacy and weight if they claim to integrate recognized research organizations. On the other hand, it give them more visibility and recognition with their peers or public. However, publishing is not an easy task, as our researcher Romane Le Gal testified during our interview.

Publication: a long and complex process

Publication is an inherent facet of the researcher’s condition. The thesis alone does not usually give enough weight, legitimacy for scientists to integrate a renowned institution and have its work funded. That’s the reason for carrying out the famous “post-docs” (cf part 1 of our interview) of several years, leaves them the time to deepen their works and to fill their wallet with some more impacting articles.

During her six years of research (thesis and post-doctorate), Romane has already published more than fifteen articles. And its pace of publication is increasing. Last year she published two articles as first author, and no less than three articles in collaboration.
We must publish as much as possible if we want to claim access to CNRS or CNAP research positions

She also told us that writing an article was neither easy nor difficult but more like a long-term work: “it depends on the authors, there is a lot of bibliographical study to be aware of other researchers work on the subject. It also very much depends on the university director of research. He is the one giving the directives regarding topics to work, which helps us more or less

United States vs. France: some disparities

The American and French systems are quite different regarding scientific publication. In the United States researchers face the famous “publish or perish” in order to quickly find fundings for few years. It’s a slightly more “short-termist” vision than in Europe. American scientists also have more “outreach” will: popularization and mediatization of their work. The bulk of this mediatization is mainly done through conferences, but also through a growing use of social networks.

While in France, researchers have a relatively lesser pressure, since they often hold the status of permanent researcher, which, apart from serious misconduct, is quite difficult to lose. However this pressure tends to become more general, even in France. Although most universities or organizations fund researchers’ salaries, researchers must make more and more requests for additional research grants to finance their work, their access to data and their publications … thus approaching the American model.

“In general, it’s the university who pays to provide us with the access to the data we need. It is also either the PI (Principal Investigator) in the US or the institutes in France who pay for publications, which can quickly become very expensive.

However other institutions where some of my friends work do not pay (anymore) for this data. So I often get requests from colleagues like: “since you’re at Harvard, could you send me these articles for free?”

Overall, the current publishing system is quite complex. Researchers must especially try to publish in “high impact factor journals” to be recognized but sometimes young talented authors, fail to publish in these major journals.

This testimony from Romane reinforces the conviction of GinGo and many others to believe in Open Access. This alternative system must be seriously considered in order to allow Romane and many other researchers to publicize their work without any financial pressure. So that science remains a sharing tool, and not a financial product …

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