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Publish or perish


Publish or perish

"Publish or perish" is a phrase coined to describe the pressure in academia in the United States to rapidly and continually publish academic work to sustain or further one's career.[1][2][3]

Frequent publication is one of the few methods at scholars' disposal to demonstrate academic talent. Successful publications bring attention to scholars and their sponsoring institutions, which can facilitate continued funding and an individual's progress through a chosen field. In popular academic perception, scholars who publish infrequently, or who focus on activities that do not result in publications, such as instructing undergraduates, may lose ground in competition for available tenure-track positions. The pressure to publish has been cited as a cause of poor work being submitted to academic journals.[4]


  • Origin 1
  • Advantages 2
  • Disadvantages 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The phrase appeared in a non-academic context in the 1932 book, Archibald Cary Coolidge: Life and Letters, by Harold Jefferson Coolidge.[5] In 1938, the phrase appeared in a college-related publication.[6] The expression also appears in Eugene Garfield's article, "The Academic Man: A Study in the Sociology of a Profession", published in The Scientist in 1942.[7]


Research-oriented universities may attempt to manage the unhealthy aspects of the publish or perish practices, but their administrators often argue that some pressure to produce cutting-edge research is necessary to motivate scholars early in their careers to focus on research advancement, and learn to balance its achievement with the other responsibilities of the professorial role. The call to abolish tenure is very much a minority opinion in such settings.


This phenomenon has been strongly criticized, the most notable grounds being that the emphasis on publishing may decrease the value of resulting scholarship, as scholars must spend more time scrambling to publish whatever they can get into print, rather than spending time developing significant research agendas.[8]

The pressure to publish or perish also detracts from the time and effort professors can devote to teaching undergraduate courses and mentoring graduate students. The rewards for exceptional teaching rarely match the rewards for exceptional research, which encourages faculty to favor the latter whenever they conflict.[9]

Many universities do not focus on teaching ability when they hire new faculty, and simply look at the publications list (and, especially in technology-related areas, the ability to bring in research money). This single-minded focus on the professor as researcher may cause faculty to neglect or be unable to perform some other responsibilities.

Regarding the humanities, teaching and passing on the tradition of Literae Humaniores is given secondary consideration in research universities and treated as a non-scholarly activity.

Also, publish-or-perish is linked to scientific misconduct or at least questionable ethics.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Publish or perish". Nature 467 (7313): 252–252. 2010.  
  2. ^ Fanelli, D. (2010). Scalas, Enrico, ed. "Do Pressures to Publish Increase Scientists' Bias? An Empirical Support from US States Data". PLoS ONE 5 (4): e10271.  
  3. ^ Neill, U. S. (2008). "Publish or perish, but at what cost?". Journal of Clinical Investigation 118 (7): 2368–2368.  
  4. ^ Gad-El-Hak, M. (2004). "Publish or Perish—An Ailing Enterprise?". Physics Today 57 (3): 61–61.  
  5. ^ Archibald Cary Coolidge: Life and Letters, 1932, p. 308
  6. ^ Volume 24 (1938)Association of American Colleges Bulletin,
  7. ^ Eugene Garfield (June 1996). "What Is The Primordial Reference For The Phrase 'Publish Or Perish'?" (PDF). The Scientist 10 (12): 11. 
  8. ^ Decca, Aitkenhead. "Peter Higgs: I wouldn't be productive enough for today's academic system". The Guardian. 
  9. ^ Bauerlein, Mark (17 November 2011). "Literary Research: Costs and Impact". Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Retrieved 29 March 2015. 
  10. ^ Wesel, M. van (2015). "Evaluation by Citation: Trends in Publication Behavior, Evaluation Criteria, and the Strive for High Impact Publications". Science and Engineering Ethics.  


  • Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom. New York: The Free Press, 1998.
  • January 2007ASEE Prism,Thomas K. Grose, "21st Century Professor,"
  • Richard L.S. Evans, "Chrysoloras' Greek: The Pedagogy of Cultural Transformation."
  • Volume 15, Number 2 - 1 February 2010First Monday,Herb, Ulrich. (2010) "Sociological implications of scientific publishing: Open access, science, society, democracy, and the digital divide"
  • Publish or Perish calculates various statistics, including the h-index and the g-index using Google Scholar data
  • [1]

External links

  • Quotations related to Publishing at Wikiquote
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