Influencer science

A woman in a lab coat applies lip gloss while staring at her phone. She is at her desk in a laboratory.

There is a worrying trend in science. Scientists use increasingly narcissistic strategies to compete for research funds, jobs, and prestige.

Examples include boastful statements in social media, creating a scientific “brand”, and over-citing one’s own work while under-citing that of others.

We wondered whether those types of strategies are also influencing the ways that scientists write their publications.

Read this open access paper on the FACETS website.

We tested the hypothesis by screening the titles and abstracts of 176 scientific journals for claims that the research is “the first” study to investigate a question or phenomenon, and whether the authors left the assessment to others by using terms such as “to the best of our knowledge”.

We evaluated nearly three-quarters of a million articles published between 1975 and 2019.

The proportions of both terms have grown steadily over time. Whether on purpose, or not, scientists are increasingly gaming the assessment of their research by padding titles and abstracts with claims of novelty.

Read the paper — Self-promotion and the need to be first in science by Douglas W. Morris, Erin MacGillivray, and Elyse N. Pither


FACETS is a multidisciplinary open access science journal.