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February 2000

"Significant" Scientific Productivity Should Be Weighed Against the Expenses Necessary to Finance It

Arch Dermatol. 2000;136(2):266. doi:

I read with great interest the article by Stern and Arndt1 about top cited authors in dermatology. In my opinion, however, the impact of a given single medical article should be expressly distinguished from the global productivity of the author and/or group and/or institution and measured by its true influence on the science and practice of dermatology. It is evident that, if an author publishes, say, 1 million articles a year, some among these will be necessarily cited as a result of a "mass effect." It is reasonable to believe that such a mass effect is heavily influenced by financial and editorial power, as well as by personal acquaintances and introductions, unless we uncritically affirm that "important authors publish a great deal because they are the best authors, and they are the best because they publish so much." As a result, such authors will be granted more funds, will publish 2 million articles next year, the mass effect will grow further, and the scientific "ruling classes" will consolidate their positions of power. As a simple citizen of the variegate dermatological nation, I dare advance the provocative proposal that the real weight of an author and/or group should be evaluated as the ratio of cited papers coauthored by that author and/or group (possibly in main textbooks) to the total number of works coauthored by that author and/or group.

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