May 22, 2022

Research Article: “Scientific Productivity: An Exploratory Study Of Metrics And Incentives”

The following article was recently published by PLoS One.


Scientific Productivity: An Exploratory Study Of Metrics And Incentives


Mark D. Lindner
National Institutes of Health
ORCID: 0000-0002-8646-2980

Karina D. Torralba
Loma Linda University

Nasim A. Khan
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System


PLoS ONE 13(4)
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0195321


Competitive pressure to maximize the current bibliometric measures of productivity is jeopardizing the integrity of the scientific literature. Efforts are underway to address the ‘reproducibility crisis’ by encouraging the use of more rigorous, confirmatory methods. However, as long as productivity continues to be defined by the number of discoveries scientists publish, the impact factor of the journals they publish in and the number of times their papers are cited, they will be reluctant to accept high quality methods and consistently conduct and publish confirmatory/replication studies. This exploratory study examined a sample of rigorous Phase II-IV clinical trials, including unpublished studies, to determine if more appropriate metrics and incentives can be developed.

The results suggest that rigorous procedures will help reduce false positives, but to the extent that higher quality methods are accepted as the standard of practice, the current bibliometric incentives will discourage innovative studies and encourage scientists to shift their research to less informative studies of subjects that are already being more actively investigated. However, the results also suggest that it is possible to develop a more appropriate system of rewards. In contrast to the current bibliometric incentives, evaluations of the quality of the methods and reproducibility of the results, innovation and diversity of thought, and amount of information produced may serve as measures and incentives that maintain the integrity of the scientific literature and maximize scientific progress.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.