February 05, 2007

Making Science magazine sustainable

Donald Kennedy, editor of Science, reflects on sustainability. "Societies [...] will have to make difficult decisions about what resource levels [and resource allocation among individuals] are adequate." If "members of the top third in [generation] t + 1 receive substantially more than before, whereas those in the bottom third get less, and for some of them the allocation falls below the level of essentiality," then society is not sustainable according to Kennedy.

There are two ways in which Science can become sustainable. First, Science publishes a disproportionate number of high-impact papers. The "gap" between Science and low-impact journals has been increasing over time. I suggest that most Science manuscripts that get accepted by its review process be allocated to low-impact journals, and vice versa. This would level the playing field and make science publication more equitable and thus sustainable.

Second, while a few scientists have published - "received" - more than one paper in Science more than 99% have published - "received" - none, which clearly falls below the level of "essentiality." A solution to this inequality is to let every scientist in the world publish at least once in Science.

Society will have to make difficult decisions about what scientific publication levels are adequate.

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