Publicise or die? Scientists are forced to chase ratings

© Illustration RIA Novosti . Alina Planinauta forced to publish more and more articlesPublicise or die? Scientists are forced to chase ratings© Illustration RIA Novosti . Alina Polyanina

China sharply reduces the gap with the US in the number of scientific publications. There are successes in the international arena and at the Russian science. The RIA Novosti correspondent found out easily whether a young scientist to publish an article in a leading scientific journal.

In the laboratory of nanobiotechnology MIPT cramped. Miniature lab, deftly holding test tubes and pipettes in hand, with difficulty making their way between furniture, shelving and appliances. And here I am with a guided tour.

My guide Vladimir Cherkasov briefly delayed the «clean room», where extremely sterile conditions for experiments:

«We are developing new methods of drug delivery into the tumor. Our designs are miniature particles are essentially mini-computers that are capable of autonomously perform a variety of markers characteristic of the disease, and decide how to act. This Maxim Petrovich invented».

In the lab employs about 15 people, mostly students and graduates. Russia is now a familiar sight, because the state requires to attract research youth. Besides, at hand is the best University in the country, a sin not to use.

«Can guys do to be published in serious scientific journals?»— I am interested in.

«For our region by the leading scientific journals, that is, those that are in the first quartile is the journals with the impact factor of seven. The young scientist, if published in such journals, the composition of the research group» — meets graduate student Konstantin Shevchenko.

He explains that academic journals vary greatly in influence on the scientific community. More influential than a magazine, the more scientists read and cite. And since all scientific publications are in digital form, the number of citations is considered to be easy.

Dividing the number of citations to the number of published articles in the journal for two years, get an impact factor. Magazines ratings for this indicator are regularly the largest owners of digital collections of scientific publications Thomson Reuters and Elsevier. If all scientific journals have a single subject area, such as physics, to build on the impact factor and the list is split into four equal groups, the best of all cited journals from the first group will be the proverbial first quartile. For publications it authors rewarded especially, their application in first apply for funding.

We usually treated with pills, which act through the blood to all body cells — patients and healthy. It is important to deliver drugs targeted to impact a point on the sore spot. For this purpose, in the simplest case, drugs are attached to the nanocontainers with the receptor that recognize the target cells. Upon arrival, the delivery vehicle recognizes the target and release drugs. Some nanocontainers already knew how to respond to a primitive environment parameters, such as acidity or external magnetic field, better identifying the target. Nikitin came up with how to construct a nanorobot is able to compute many parameters to recognize the target, and to respond to any combination of these parameters is programmed. At that time nobody in the world has such a problem could not solve.

«I knew that we claim to be the top. I have had no experience of publishing in such journals. I don’t really imagined how it’s done» — says the scientist.
He first sent his article in Science — the most famous after Nature magazine. The scientific editorial Board gave a negative opinion, so the article didn’t even get to reviewers. Nikitin says:

«This is a very strange opinion contained numerous incorrect statements, which I did not expect from such a prestigious magazine.»

The refusal came from Nature. Then the scientist has written an article in more magazine by the same publishers — Nature materials. Its editors were more supportive and after some refinement has submitted the text for review.

Reworking the article at the request of the publisher, Maxim has decided to strengthen the emphasis and used for the name of the designed agents, the term nanorobots. In any case, his competitors, had time to publish by the time the article in Science, the term is figured. However, the reviewer Nature materials this «knight’s move» produced the opposite effect. The publication was again denied.

A continuous feeling that someone would publish something like this, it is strongly encouraged. He was working 80 hours a week, sometimes had to work from home, one weekend per month.

In the scientific community a lot of stories about how someone stole someone else’s idea and gave his. And although the evidence is usually no discount such a scenario is not necessary. Nikitin knew as soon as the article gets to the reviewers of the journal, they will receive a full description of his invention. Theoretically, they can refuse to the author, and themselves to apply this article to the colleagues working in the same field. There is nothing easier, than to replace some parameters to make experiments at other facilities, and all the invention in the hands of others. With this in mind, Maxim patented his idea, to protect the priority.

Perseverance bears fruit

After another failure Nikitin sent an article in Nature nanotechnology. It was 27 August 2013. Reviewers are asked to do many additional experiments to clarify some seemed vague passages. By that time, the same journal published an article by American scientists, who worked in a similar direction. I had to re-correct the text to include links to competitors.

«We overcame several rounds of editing, and all this time I did not understand, will release us, or at the last moment will fail (exactly what happened to my friends from the US after a year of reviewing). The situation is extremely stressful. 11 months later we were told that the job took to print. We all gasped,» — says Maxim Petrovich.

According to tradition, published by Nature, all authors of the future rooms offered to send drawings and photos for the cover. Nikitin painted in 3D Studio MAX at school. He crenderer a few options for their role. Then I connected to work friends and colleagues who are professionally engaged in the modeling of scientific objects. The figure eventually selected for the cover.

«I was delighted that our picture was published on the cover. That said, in General, about the geopolitical impartiality of the editors. I was greatly impressed,» recalls the scientist.

By telling this story, Nikitin frequently uses the word «lucky», emphasizing the fact that for seven years they were the first in Russia published an article without foreign affiliazione in the field of life science in journals with impact factor above 25. But this argument proves rather the opposite: its success he must not luck, and the quality of work and originality of ideas.

«We drove in such a framework, we must now be published in journals with high impact factor, which is a very long process of peer review. It is a harsh, even inhuman situation when a civilization learns about developments with two to three years late,» concludes the scientist.

Thanks to technology and scientific equipment, scientists work faster. Research that used to take ten years, now perform for three or four years. In addition, according to Nikitin, mankind pays more attention to science, scientific specialty and more popular, one thing scientists are working in different areas, which also contributes to the rapid progress.

At the same time, everyone understands that the system of peer review (peer review) of scientific journals is far from perfect, she manages the development of science, that it should somehow change. But how and what?

P. S. This article had already been prepared, when on 5 February the news came that Maxim Nikitin has become a laureate of the prize of the President of Russia for young scientists.