Are there studies of "bad academic practices" in general, and documenting in particular whether or not the prevalence of such practices increases in institutions or communities with an increased pressure to academics to publish (either by adding money incentives to publish, or by creating job instability threats for those who "do not publish enough")?

Such a study would be considering (at least) the following list of unethical behaviors:

  1. Student exploitation
    • publishing student's results without mentioning their participation, or (milder)
    • taking students and benefiting from their work (adding one's name to their publications) without having them benefit from your own work (i.e. without working on their publication).
  2. Faking Results
    • altering the results in order to make them publishable.
  3. Plagiarism
    • Copying results from other authors without properly acknowledging them (pretending to ignore such results)
  4. Minimal Publishable Result
    • Intentionally dividing a general result in as many as possible smaller results, in order to increase one's number of publications
    • Refusing to merge two highly related/complementary results (each presented at a distinct conference) by the same authors into a single journal article
  5. Complexifying of Results
    • "The result is quite simple, but you need to make it look complicated in order to get it published"
  6. Self-Plagiarism
    • Duplicating one own's proofs or results without citing it.
  7. Intimidation/Bullying
    • Threatening a colleague into avoiding some research topic
  8. Collusion
    • "Add my name to n of your publications and I will add your name to n of my publications"
  9. Publish in disreputable publication venues

For some of those (e.g. collusion), I have some ideas about how to approximate a measure of their prevalence in a given community. For some others, I am curious about what an online survey of academic's anonymous reporting would reveal. I could not find such work, when it seems something which could be useful to the academic community, and in particular to inform decisions such as to give monetary incentives to publish to faculty members.

  • 1
    Re: 6. When I was in grad school there was a guy famous for this. He would publish papers with titles of the following pattern that were only different with copy-pasted adjectives: Type A theories, Type A-B theories, Type A-B-C theories, Type A-C theories, etc. We knew this for sure because he would have the grad students proof-read his English, and he would have us do three such papers side-by-side. Plus he would get each of them in a conference proceedings. So one actual paper wound up getting published as many as 12 times.
    – Boba Fit
    Jan 9, 2023 at 16:05
  • Any reason why the question would be considered a "shopping" question? Dixit academia.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3657/…, "A shopping question is a question that appears to seek help choosing, finding or assessing an individual journal, an individual publisher, an individual university, an individual academic program, an individual field, an individual research topic, an individual funding agency, a commercial online service, or similar". I fail to see a match with the question :(
    – J..y B..y
    Jan 10, 2023 at 14:38
  • I'm not sure what is wrong with #4 as currently described. If two distinct results were good enough to get published in reputable peer-reviewed conferences, merging them in a journal article could actually be viewed more like "pumping out papers" and forcing extra content, where the ideas might have been communicated clearly already. There could be many a good reason to "refuse to merge two published papers" -- maybe the author is still working on this, and does not feel like wrapping it all in a journal makes sense before a latter point in the project?
    – penelope
    Jan 10, 2023 at 14:40
  • 1
    On the other hand, a practice that is typically considered negative and somewhat reminds of your #4 is what is colloquially known as "salami slicing". Here the situation is reversed -- instead of publishing a piece of work as a single (journal, or conference) publication, the contents are purposefully chopped up and padded, and published as a series of bite-sized chunks. Rather than "refusal to merge", the problem is "eagerness to split work up"
    – penelope
    Jan 10, 2023 at 14:41
  • 1
    I guess the difference between the situations we are describing is the time when the work is completed. If a research team completes a large chunk of work, and then decides to publish it as a series of small publications, that could be a questionable practice and be called salami slicing/minimal publishable result. However, if some progress is made on a topic, which is then published, the further extended, then published again, etc - this sounds like the normal course of research to me.
    – penelope
    Jan 11, 2023 at 14:09

3 Answers 3


Will be hard to find evidence for most of your points but for 4)

Might also help:

  • yes, albeit I have been thinking about such a study for several years, it's seeing the recent nature article which prompted me to think that such a study SHOULD be done (not only could be done).
    – J..y B..y
    Jan 10, 2023 at 14:34

Regarding collusion: the paper Citation gaming induced by bibliometric evaluation: A country-level comparative analysis shows that academics in Italy started citing each other much more frequently after a change in the national regulations tied career advances to bibliometrics.

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