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QUESTIONS:

Is publishing a selection of articles presented at a conference into a single massive journal article "surveying the latest results" in an area just a way to game the system (and has it become more common lately)?

CONTEXT:

I came across (what seems to be) one such case recently (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.inffus.2023.101945), a journal article of 63 pages (accepted 38 days after reception!) with 78 authors, explicitly combining a quite diverse (education, bio informatics, quantum computing, etc.) set of results presented at a conference. The journal's scope (Hardware and Architecture, Information Systems, Signal Processing, Software according to https://www.resurchify.com/impact/details/26099) does not have much to do with the keywords of the article (Explainable Artificial Intelligence, Data science, Computational approaches, Machine learning, Deep learning, Neuroscience, Robotics, Biomedical applications, Computer-aided diagnosis systems), and the results within have a very wide range, the common denominator being "artificial intelligence" and the fact that they are recent.

It occurred to me that, in a context where the research productivity of researchers and research institutions is measured in terms of citation numbers and impact factors, such massive articles present some "advantages" to the authors compared to traditional, separated journal publications: among other things, any citation to a subpart of the massive journal yields a citation to all the authors of the massive article, and the number of citations to the single massive article is the sum of the numbers of citations to its sub-parts. Unsurprisingly, the journal itself has relatively high bibliometrics (Impact Factor: 23.14, h-index: 136, Rank: 296, SJR: 4.756, h-index: 136 according to https://www.resurchify.com/impact/details/26099).

Without objecting in any way to the fact that the authors are getting recognition for their work (they should!), I am wondering

  1. if the way institutions measure researcher's and institution's "research production" is giving incentives to produce such massive articles; and
  2. whether such practice truly benefits the research community in particular and the scientific research process in general.

Among other worries, I would highlight two drawbacks of a system where conference proceedings are replaced by such massive journal articles (especially if accepted after a reviewing process of less than two months):

  1. it is not just a change of format if this removes the incentive for researchers to present longer, more mature and complete "journal" version of their work than what they presented at the conference; and
  2. citations will lose their accuracy and need to be extended if each citation refers to the massive article.

DISCLAIMER:

This is not an attack on the authors of the article cited, nor on their editors or on the (Artificial Intelligence) community in which such article was produced, and not even against the publishers (Elsevier). I am just wondering if this is common, and if this has become more common over time (potentially because of new incentives).

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Question of the sort "How common is it to ...?" are often not useful because you're asking for a specific frequency when nobody has statistics about this. So the best anyone can say is (i) well, it happens, as you found out, and (ii) but not very often because I, for example, have never come across such a paper.

Perhaps a better question is whether this is a useful style to publish results. It may be to the authors, as you already understand. It probably isn't very much for the progress of science. But then the journal seems a bit questionable to me anyway (considering the generic journal Aims & Scope, and the size of the editorial board; the number of volumes they publish; etc.). To me, this then appears as simply another way someone has discovered to game the "publish or perish" system we have.

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  • You are right: I edited the title and introduction to refocus the question. I think (as you do) that it is just a strategy to game the system, but I am curious of other people's opinion (before potentially searching for other examples and trying to draw some statistics about the prevalence of such practice and its evolution over time in distinct communities).
    – J..y B..y
    Aug 10, 2023 at 16:20

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