Nobel winner Randy Schekman boycotts top science journals

Biologist Randy Schekman says his lab will no longer send research papers to publications that exert a 'toxic influence' on science

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 9:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 December, 2013, 3:24am


Leading academic journals distort the scientific process and represent a "tyranny" that must be broken, according to a Nobel prize winner who has declared a boycott on the publications.

Randy Schekman, a US biologist who won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine this year and was scheduled to receive his prize yesterday, said his lab would no longer send research papers to the top-tier journals Nature, Cell and Science.

Schekman said pressure to publish in "luxury" journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favoured studies that were likely to make a splash.

The prestige of appearing in the major journals has led the Chinese Academy of Sciences to pay successful authors the equivalent of US$30,000.

Writing in The Guardian, Schekman raised concerns over the journals' practices and called on his peers to take action. "I have published in the big brands, including papers that won me a Nobel. But no longer," he wrote. "Just as Wall Street needs to break the hold of bonus culture, so science must break the tyranny of the luxury journals."

Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief at Nature, said the journal had worked with the scientific community for more than 140 years and the support it had from authors and reviewers was validation that it served their needs.

"We select research for publication in Nature on the basis of scientific significance. That in turn may lead to citation impact and media coverage, but Nature editors aren't driven by those considerations, and couldn't predict them even if they wished to do so," he said.