How do scientists perceive the current publication culture? A qualitative focus group interview study among Dutch biomedical researchers


Qualitative focus group interview study.


Four university medical centres in the Netherlands.


Three randomly selected groups of biomedical scientists (PhD, postdoctoral staff members and full professors).

Main outcome measures

Main themes for discussion were selected by participants.


Frequently perceived detrimental effects of contemporary publication culture were the strong focus on citation measures (like the Journal Impact Factor and the H-index), gift and ghost authorships and the order of authors, the peer review process, competition, the funding system and publication bias. These themes were generally associated with detrimental and undesirable effects on publication practices and on the validity of reported results.

Furthermore, senior scientists tended to display a more cynical perception of the publication culture than their junior colleagues. However, even among the PhD students and the postdoctoral fellows, the sentiment was quite negative. Positive perceptions of specific features of contemporary scientific and publication culture were rare.


Our findings suggest that the current publication culture leads to negative sentiments, counterproductive stress levels and, most importantly, to questionable research practices among junior and senior biomedical scientists.

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