A previous post outlined why impact factors are bad for science. Below, philosophy student Alexandra Soulier discusses the negative impact of scientific publishing standards on non-scientific disciplines:


 The reasons given for why impact factors are bad for science, as valid as they are, are still confined to the circle of scientists ‘doing’ science. But, as shocking as this may sound for some, academia is not just about science. There are liberal arts, philosophy, humanities of all kinds and other disciplines or even non-disciplines that I cannot think of because I have evolved in a scientific environment for too long. What about them? What about us?

Are we condemned to awkwardly try to fit our thoughts into a 6 paged article – around strict categories structured for experimental scientists? As an apprentice philosopher, I am always wondering what my material and methods are. I cannot present my results apart from in discussion format: this just feels wrong to my condition as a thinker. As we insist on being creative, as we recognize that the form must reflect the content, we have to struggle with a uniform and imposed format. If Plato was writing today, where would he publish his dialogues? On a blog maybe, but certainly no good journal and no academic editor would accept such a weird format – despite the fact that Plato’s opus might be one of the most important works of our civilization.

Books are the solution. But books are time-consuming to write. And the pace of science constitutes another discrepancy between disciplines. This is just too fast for us to follow. And the rule is the same for everybody.

If you want to do research in academia, you need to play the game and access the Graal of high impact factor publications. If I had the choice between publishing tomorrow in Science or writing a 200 pages book, I would not hesitate one second – since I know that books made me the person I am, they made me knowledgeable in my field and supported my intellectual itinerary. I would love to have the opportunity and the ability to express myself in an original format and to develop my thoughts extensively. I would be so proud to hold a book with my name on it, to offer and display an object that means the world to me. Yes, the choice would be obvious to me. But what choice would my research director make, do you think?

By Alexandra Soulier, apprentice philosopher