On Saturday, midsommar day in Sweden, a debate article about the state os Swedish PhD education was published. It is a shame it was published on a day when most of the people are taking a day off. Docent Shahidul Islam wrote that the Swedish PhD education has to become better. He means that knowledge is more important and not the number of articles published. Especially when there is not always time to write that long good article which could be published in one of the top tier journals but the material is divided into two or more to allow publishing several articles from the same material but in lower level journals. Shahidul Islam means that the important thing for a PhD student must be knowledge and what they learn in the program rather than the number of publications. He also writes that the meaning of the public defence of the PhD thesis should played down and that Sweden should take after Oxford.
I agree with him to a point but I also think that the public defence is a good tradition and I like how it is open for the university staff, students and general public to sit and listen to. It is a way to make tha academia more open for those who actually pay for the academia. And it is nice that several years of hard, often lonly, work is rewarded in a positive way.
I agree with him PhD students should not be demanded to publish too many articles or to think of the supervisors need to show “effective number” or to even think what results are possible to publish. During the PhD programme the PhD student should learn the craft of research. However, I think that publishing is a part of that craft. Research results should be disseminated, what is otherwise the point of research? The world of publishing is changing all the time and it can be a challenge to keep oneself updated. All the demands research funders have on open access publishing and all the new predatory publishers make it demanding. So, knowledge on publishing and publishing ethics should be a part of a good PhD programme but this should not imply that a PhD student needs to publish continuously.
Talking about postive and possible results to publish: Ben Goldacre: What doctors don’t know about the drugs they prescribe (ca 13 minutes) is a good TED Talks about publication bias. It is about the fact that there is not much or any interest in publishing negative results or articles on replicating trials within medicine. He gives an example from a group of scientists who reported in Nature of their study in which they took 55 other studies and tried to replicate them. Thye were able to replicate only six of them! He gives another example of a medicin that was studied in several studies. 38 studies had positive results, 37 studies had negative resuls. 37 of the studies with positive results were published but only 3 of the studies with negative results were published. I wonder how publication bias looks in other scientific fields?