Of publications past, present and future


(cough) I know you’re there. Turn on the microphone. And the camera. We’ve got time before the meeting starts to have a bit of a chat. I’ve got good news, he’s not coming.

(pause) There we are. Can you hear me? Yes? OK. … So who’s not coming?

Him. You know – he who sits on the Inky Throne. Lord of Scopus. Baron of Thomson Reuters. King of the H Index. Him. Apparently the Middle Lands are locked in and he can’t travel. So they’ve sent us this story about him instead. You need to read it.

No time. I have to read and rank this pile of REFable papers by the end of the day. Just tell me what it says.

Well, it says he publishes a paper every two days.

Whaaat? That’s ridiculous. Impossible.

Well that’s what it says. He’s apparently published 161 papers so far this year.

You must be joking. How does anyone do that?

Well, he says these papers are mainly with his PhDs and former PhDs. But he reckons that he is involved in every one of the papers – he makes an intellectual contribution – he talks about being involved in the design and oversight of research projects and critical review of the papers.

So the Inky Lord does what most of us think of as supervision and then sticks his royal seal of approval on the papers?  And he has like a little publication army that he sends out to conquer the scholarly world?

Well yes, but you know that some disciplines work this way. His is one. It’s their tradition.

Which is not the same as ours.

Well no. But you have to admit that his system might work to advantage his PhDs. It’s pretty competitive out there. Yes I know, don’t say it, it shouldn’t be this competitive. (stares sideways and reads) He does say that you have to do at least 5% of the work on a paper before you put your name on it. Sometimes he does much more, he says. So he can spend five or six hours on a draft.

Five or six hours. Huh. I should be so lucky. I routinely spend that long on half a page. Don’t even mention my overdue book manuscript and my half-written grant application. But hang on, it’s coming back to me. Don’t I remember something about gaming – cutting and pasting between papers? Or was that just a horrible rumour? And then there was something about publishing in just a few journals and publishing a lot with a particular journal editor – or something like that.

Dunno about all that. This says that his teaching is compressed into one month so that leaves him lots of time.

One month!! So not even a term’s worth of teaching then. Who gets to do that?

But he works a fifty to sixty hour week, he says. He puts his publications down to hard work, not just the doctoral support staff.

Like the rest of us don’t work hard. Is that the implication? And we should all be working fifty to sixty hours week in, week out. As if we don’t have actual lives. And if we don’t publish something every two days, we’re slackers?  We’re not “performing”? We’re not “productive”? I’m glad he’s not coming to the meeting. But hang on, why was he coming to the meeting in the first place?

Not sure. Perhaps he was meant to inspire us. Or shame us. I don’t know.

Surely not to suggest that even though we are about to submit our output tithes to the national counting house, we still need to keep up the pace? Or actually increase it? I’m already chained to my desk and screen like the proverbial monk in the scriptorium.

Yeah. Me too.

( sighs) I really don’t want to hear any more. No more of the Middle Lands very own scholarly Ser Legane. Let’s talk about what it’s actually like for your ordinary academic foot soldier, and for all those trying to get over the Great Wall of Casualisation. He can just sod off. ( inaudible mutters)

Where have you gone? Your picture is turned off.

Yes, I know. This scholarly serf can just squeeze in a few more emails to quarantined students before the meeting starts. See you in a bit.