Publish and perish

I know nothing about this except what I read here, but it sounds like a wretched situation: David Colquhoun on bullying (of scientists by senior scientists) at Imperial College.

This week’s Times Higher Education carried a report of the death, at age 51, of Professor Stefan Grimm:Imperial College London to ‘review procedures’ after death of academic. He was professor of toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial.

Now Stefan Grimm is dead. Despite having a good publication record, he failed to do sufficiently expensive research, so he was fired.

“Speaking to Times Higher Education on condition of anonymity, two academics who knew Professor Grimm, who was 51, said that he had complained of being placed under undue pressure by the university in the months leading up to his death, and that he had been placed on performance review.”

Having had cause to report before on bullying at Imperial’s Department of Medicine, I was curious to know more.

And he found out more. Read it.

At the end he posts a bunch of horrified tweets by other scientists and academics.


  1. iknklast says

    The college where I teach is not publish or perish, but it is “butts in seats”. You have to have a certain FTE. You have to have a certain number of them succeed (C or higher) in your class. Never mind that we have essentially no admission standards, and students may come to class woefully unprepared for a college science class. This, of course, leads many to consider dropping standards. Perhaps some do.

    When education becomes too bottom line oriented, it ceases to be education and becomes just another Wal-Mart commodity, plastic and quickly broken.

  2. says

    Good grief. This is orders of magnitude worse than anything I’ve heard or read before. Now try imagining being a woman in such a place, with a healthy dose of sexism on top of all the other crap from academia.

  3. johnthedrunkard says

    Sir Peter Medawar, in his autobiography, mentions sitting next to one of the Titans of Biology at an Oxford dining hall when he was young. The Titan asked how many papers he had published, he rather sheepishly admitted to seven. The Titan drew himself up and said: ‘That’s far too many!’

    The pressure to publish in bulk is deeply destructive. From Einstein to Crick and Watson, ONE significant piece of work is more important than a stream of mediocre place-keeping journal-fodder. Scientific publication is choked under the weight of careerist chaff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *