The ‘publish or perish’ culture

By Herman M. Lagon

IN academia, the saying “publish or perish” has gained significant traction, leading to a flood of research articles published worldwide each year. This has brought about new ways of publishing, where researchers pay to have their work published, granting open access to readers globally.

The reason behind this trend is to quickly share knowledge for the benefit of researchers, readers, and society. However, this growth has unintended consequences. Some published research lacks value, and the pressure to publish for academic success or recognition has led some to unethical behavior. This pressure-driven push for publication has also fueled a profitable publishing industry. As the number of journals increases, some predatory journals lacking quality and ethics have emerged.

During our university’s recent research publication seminar, our speaker highlighted the pressure to publish, driven by publications, as markers of academic success. These publications not only showcase academics’ competence but also attract more research funding, intensifying the push to publish.

Despite the rising number of published papers, concerns persist about declining research quality. The abundance of research makes it difficult for busy researchers, students, and academics to find and absorb relevant information. With limited access and time, they turn to summary sources like Wikipedia, AI, and social media. Even deep dives into research often have minimal impact. The emphasis on self-publishing overshadows the importance of staying updated with others’ work.

While many emphasize the accessibility of research, doubts surround the value of this flood of research produced under the “publish or perish” mindset. Researchers struggle to navigate and extract valuable findings from this growing sea of research. Many journals prioritize quantity over quality, overlooking valuable research.

The shift from subscription-based to Pay-To-Publish models has fueled the growth of Open-Access publishing. However, this rapid growth has led to varying research quality. Profit-driven practices have led to unethical behavior, such as slicing research into smaller pieces, self-citation, and plagiarism. The fixation on positive results sidelines negative findings. Efforts must be made in the different institutions to address these issues.

A clearer loading for teaching and research could ease the burden on educators and researchers, enhancing both areas. Add to this is the bureaucratic internal processes in institutions that sometimes discourages individuals from pursuing their craft. While progress is being made in terms of the number of research outputs, ensuring that research truly adds value remains crucial. Standardized criteria, efficiency, and alternative publishing models can shift focus away from profit toward integrity.

The “publish or perish” mindset has led to a flood of research publications, raising concerns about quality and ethics. Through collaboration, commitment to credible research, and innovative publishing models, the academia can renew its mission, making meaningful contributions to knowledge and society. In this evolving landscape, the choice is clear: publish with purpose and substance or risk being lost in superficiality.


Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions where he is employed or connected with.