Re: Research Reports as Advertisements: An Allegory

From: Arthur Sale <>
Date: Sun, 4 Mar 2007 09:28:55 +1100

This is a strange view Jan. You ascribe attitudes to researchers as though
they were facts, when in actuality they are but secondary factors. Let me
tease out your comments.

Arthur Sale
University of Tasmania

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
> Sent: Sunday, 4 March 2007 7:37 AM
> Subject: Re: [AMERICAN-SCIENTIST-OPEN-ACCESS-FORUM] Research Reports as
> Advertisements: An Allegory


> The main oddity is perhaps his remark that "In the case of peer-
> reviewed publishing, the "ad" is the research paper itself: there is
> no other product it is trying to promote and sell."
> He is mistaken here. Authors are not trying to sell their papers.
> What the author is trying to 'sell' (note the inverted commas,
> please), his 'product' if you wish, is his scientific prowess, his
> ideas, and when he is successful, he is able to 'sell' those for
> citations, the currency of science. His adage in the scientific ego-
> system is "I am cited, therefore I am". Top scientists are typically
> better able to 'sell' their ideas and themselves, and get 'paid' in
> citations, than more 'pedestrian' scientists. The article itself
> conveys information about the researcher (the way he's done the
> research, for instance) and his 'product' (the ideas, the research
> results). The analogy with an advertisement is clear. PNAS used to
> have a line at the bottom of the first page of an article that said
> "This is an advertisement". I don't know if they still do, but how
> right they were.

This is nonsense. The 'product' is the article, because it is this article,
and no other, that the author is motivated to get out in the research
literature. It is this research that often the researcher has been paid
substantial amounts to produce (much more than the dissemination costs) and
often on condition that the work is published (implied or explicitly). In
the advertising terminology, it is this article that he or she want to

Of course the researcher wants to be recognized as well, but as a secondary
aim. The advertising analogy holds good here too. Companies marketing
commodities seek 'brand recognition' as well as selling the product, as a
secondary characteristic of advertising. Though I will cheerfully admit that
there are some ads which are solely or mainly aimed at brand recognition,
they do not have an analogue I can think of in scholarly publication, unless
it be review articles. No, scholarly publishing is mainly aimed at research
dissemination, with a much lesser intent of scoring for the author as a good
researcher. It is very disturbing to have you, as a Springer employee, say

Remember that even if the author has this intent in the back of his or her
mind, the peer reviewers and the publishers don't. If they really believed
this to be the intent of scholarly publishing, then they would behave very
differently. Top rank authors would be star-billed; author citations would
be listed; reviewers would look at track record; authors could pay from
top-of-contents billing; etc. I am afraid the argument does not stand up.
Received on Sat Mar 03 2007 - 22:52:36 GMT

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