Chinese institutions have been told to stop paying researchers bonuses for publishing in journals, as part of a new national policy to cut perverse incentives that encourage scientists to publish lots of papers rather than focus on high-impact work.
In an order released last week, China’s science and education ministries also say that institutions must not promote or recruit researchers solely on the basis of the number of papers they publish, or their citations. Researchers are welcoming the policy, but say that it could reduce the country’s competitiveness in science.
These practices have incentivized researchers to publish lots of papers at the expense of quality, says Jin Xuan, a chemical engineer at Loughborough University, UK. Evidence suggests that the focus on metrics has also driven a rise in inappropriate practices, such as researchers submitting plagiarized or fraudulent papers, or inappropriately citing their own or a colleague’s work to boost citations.