Medical science sickened by publication pressure?

Nieuws | de redactie
19 september 2013 | A quarter of Dutch medical professors judge that publication pressure has a “sickening effect on medical science”. Publication pressure causes burnouts and might indirectly jeopardize the quality of patient care, researchers from the Dutch VU University medical center conclude.

The publication of scientific papers is very important for medical professionals, particularly in academia since it is used to rank prestige and status of both the medical center and the individual. Quantitative measures of scientific performance, such as the Hirsh index, have become particularly important, as these directly influence grant proposals, financial rewards and career potential.

Researchers from VU university medical center in Amsterdam performed an online survey inviting all – more than 1200 – medical professors of the 8 academic medical centers in The Netherlands to participate. In total, 437 professors completed the questionnaires.

Quality of patient care at stake

More than half (54%) of the Dutch medical professors judge that publication pressure ‘has become excessive’ and 39 percent believe that publication pressure ‘affects the credibility of medical research’. The fact that 26 percent of the professors judge that publication pressure has a ‘sickening effect on medical science’, might call for a reevaluation of the current situation.

This increased emphasize on scientific performance raises pressure on medical professors to publish and intensifies competition between them. “A substantial proportion of medical professors believe that publication pressure has become excessive, and have a cynical view on the validity of medical science. These perceptions are statistically correlated to burn out symptoms,” the researchers conclude. “Burnout among medical professionals not only causes personal suffering, but also leads to decreased work performance and jeopardizes the quality of patient care,” the researchers explain.

The central Bureau of Statistics Netherlands has reported that between 8 and 11 percent of the Dutch working population have signs a burnout. Among medical professors this percentage is even higher, 24 percent. The longer someone had a professorship the more he or she suffered from publication pressure. And the more publication pressure someone feels, the more change he or she has to develop a burnout, the scientists conclude.

Read the entire article here

Tijdink JK, Vergouwen ACM, Smulders YM (2013) Publication Pressure and Burn Out among Dutch Medical Professors: A Nationwide Survey. PLoS ONE 8(9): e73381. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073381

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