Noise in the publishing system

Today, I’d like to rant on what I perceive to be flaws of the current system of publishing (or, more accurately, on the flaws of how people treat our current system). Of course, like all rants from young people, please take it with a large pinch of salt: I know I know nothing, but I’d just like to be able to vent.


What annoys me is the fact that so many publications are either low-quality (the same work could be presented in a much clearer fashion) or low-effort (the work represents a marginal improvement over the existing state of the art). A small note: I’m more than fine with incremental work: it is an essential stepping stone in science. Most everything we do is definitely not a breakthrough. However, what is extremely annoying is when the authors aren’t straightforward about how their work is incremental. Some results are presented as if the authors are offering a revolutionary approach, even though it’s just the same old crap that they are re-hashing for the third time.

These two flaws make it so that reading articles is extremely unenjoyable and much harder that it has to be: when I’m reading, I want to absorb new knowledge. I really don’t want to fight against the authors to decode whatever they meant, and I really really don’t want to have to remain hyper-attentive to decipher which parts are new and what is old stuff that I already know (and that the authors are probably butchering in their attempts at obfuscation).

I don’t know where these flaws come from and how to fix them. I’m guessing that part of the problem is that researchers fell under so much pressure to produce new articles in order to secure funding/positions/etc. As such, they need to cut corners and this explains the rushed articles and why they are trying to make their contribution sound more impressive than it is (which makes it so that their article gets accepted).

What I can do is I can strive to ensure that my contributions don’t have these flaws (oh the arrogance of youth). I’ll try as much as possible to have my contributions be as clear as I can make them (and I’ll take the time to ensure that this happens: I won’t rush to get something out if it isn’t ready). And, when I do some incremental work, I’ll make sure that I properly document exactly how it is positioned compared to the litterature AND I’ll use such occasions to try to clarify the existing literature. I’ll do so by treating the corresponding article as a tutorial, with the objective that readers that aren’t familiar with the field wouldn’t need to refer to other works to understand the state of the art.

Hopefully, I can follow through on this ideal.