February 28, 2012

Reader jekka asks:

Are you advocating Least Publishable Unit papers here DM?

My answer?


Naturally this comes with qualifiers. For now, however, I invite you to stretch yourself and

1) Define the Least Publishable Unit concept and manuscript type as cleanly as you can.


2) explain to me what the cost/problem/drawback is in the PubMed era.

Finally, please assure me that you have never cited a paper you consider an LPU, never allowed* such a turd to shape, motivate or inform your research and for goodness sake never polluted a grant application with any such thing.

*naturally, I have done all these things. Repeatedly.

Oh yes, “again“*.

As mentors and lab heads we should make it emphatically clear to all members of our labs that “co-equal” is only equal in the Animal Farm sense. I.e., not. And to secure the specific understanding that it is a nearly valueless sop.

As reviewers, we should start criticizing the practice with some StockCritique action. I suggest “The co-equal credit is a lie and a sham and serves only to buy off the authors who are not listed first. Please explain in full how the contributions are equal”.

As Associate Editors, ditto. Only in spades and with the full weight of accept/not accept behind us.

As Journals, generically, there should be a required statement signed by all co-equal authors. To the effect that “I understand that despite the foot note about co-equal contribution, this will not be viewed as such by the academic community at large. I recognize that it is not permitted to re-order the author line on my CV or biosketch or website. I have made this decision to accept the author position of my own free will with full understanding of the career consequences.

If you cannot sign onto this behavior you are admitting you are an exploiting jerk who is full willing to lie to mentees and/or your fellow trainees about their best career moves and have nothing but your own** selfish interests at heart.

ps. it is an absolute OUTRAGE that PubMed doesn’t include the symbols. This should be a trivial fix.
*for those who think this is a mere trifle, why does it keep coming up, eh? The websearch hits coming to our older posts on this topic never die down.
**if you are the lab head or listed-first author