The Effects of the “Publish or Perish Syndrome” on Research and Innovation in Nigerian Universities: Insights From Recent Research and Case Studies

The Effects of the “Publish or Perish Syndrome” on Research and Innovation in Nigerian Universities: Insights From Recent Research and Case Studies

Floribert Patrick C. Endong (University of Calabar, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6310-5.ch005


The pressure to publish rapidly and constantly is a phenomenon engulfing academia in all countries of the globe. It has, over the years, affected research and innovation in a mostly negative way. In Nigerian universities in particular, this culture has mainly been a syndrome, manifested by (1) the urge among faculty members to publish more for promotions and positions than for genuine research production, (2) publishing for purely capitalistic motivations, (3) the use of unorthodox methodologies to boost citation index, and (4) fictive authorship of research works among others. All these objectionable practices have been responsible for various forms of decay in research and teaching in the Nigerian university system. They have, for instance, made plagiarism, data mining, predatory journals, duplicate publications, among other challenges, pervade research in Nigerian universities, causing innovation to remain more an ideal than a reality in these tertiary institutions. Using empirical understandings and critical observations, this chapter illustrates all these issues.
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Conducting research works and publishing articles constitute veritable sine qua none for many ambitious and conscientious academics (faculty members). This is attributable to the fact that recruitment and promotion in most universities across the world partially – nay mainly – depend on the research productivity of aspiring faculty members. In other words, most universities give greater attention to the number of publications to one’s credit, during the recruitment and promotion of their teaching staff. The number of publications to one’s credit is thus regarded by most academic institutions as a cardinal index of competency. Besides this, the culture of publishing extensively has become a tactic used by many teaching staff and (independent) researchers to (i) demonstrate their talents, (ii) distinguish themselves among their peers and (iii) eventually attract funding from specific quarters. In view of all these factors, faculty members have most often been under a great pressure to constantly publish; making the “publish or perish” culture to become so accentuated in the academic milieu. It has, in fact, become a harsh reality in most – if not all – universities across the globe (Enago Academy, 2015; Oransky, 2015; Rawat & Meena, 2014).

It has been observed by a number of critics that, the “publish or perish” syndrome has had adverse effects on teaching and research in universities and other institutes of higher learning across the world. The phenomenon has for instance pushed many lecturers to devote less time to teaching undergraduates and postgraduate students and consecrate more of their energy on research projects. Such neglect of the teaching responsibility has been amplified by multiple factors one of which is the fact that, rewards for exceptional teaching are hardly – if not never – comparable to the rewards for exceptional research. Another fact which has somehow amplified this neglect of teaching in favor of research has been the arguable/questionable myth stipulating that research is just an extension of teaching. Thus, good publications are kinds of teachings delivered outside the confine of a university classroom. Cooper (2013: 2) canvasses this belief when he opines that:

A common outcry by some who resist scholarly production is, “My commitment is to teaching rather than scholarship.” Who would argue with such a contention? The argument is in the definition of the teaching environment. The faculty member who fails to teach outside the four walls of a university classroom closes too many teachable doors. Teaching and scholarly production are inseparable. Scholarly production is teaching outside room 231 and into the local, state, and/or national community. Once this notion is embraced, a faculty member is more inclined to gain an insatiable appetite to teach through scholarly production recognizing the value of distant learning.

Another adverse effect of the “publish or perish” syndrome lies in the fact that, it has made the value of research works to increasingly be low as most researchers now tend to scramble to publish just anything in the name of increasing their number of publications and boosting their CVs (Endong, 2018; Maher, 2010). This abnormality, in particular, has been exacerbated by the phenomenal emergence of myriads of predatory journals which, being driven primordially by dissimulated capitalistic visions, appear bent on publishing anything in the name of research (Abbott et al., 2010). As remarked by Rawat and Meena (2014), the pressure to increase the number of publications has thus been at the root of various forms of unethical cultures and wasteful research. These unethical research cultures have, to a great extent, obviously varied from one country to another and have been addressed by scholars from various perspectives. The questions which could be asked as this juncture are: how has the publish or perish syndrome particularly affected research in Black African countries? To what extent have African researchers devoted attention to this phenomenon and how could the culture be mitigated or eradicated in African universities?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Publish or Perish Syndrome: Neologism coined to refer to the immense and generally inordinate pressure among the academia to rapidly and constantly publish research works in order to “survive” or “prosper” in the academic system. In other words, it is the pressure in the academia to continually publish research works so as to further or sustain one’s career.

Nigerian Factor: The Nigerian factor, otherwise called “the Nigerian Way,” is a term used to refer to the defeatist attitude of most Nigerians in the face of Nigeria’s perverted value system. It is used to describe the intense moral decay or mental corruption which has seriously affected the Nigerian society to the extent what is “universally” viewed as reprehensible is paradoxically accepted in the Nigerian context as working and efficacious. In other words, it is the tendency of believing that anything—morally good or bad—can go in Nigeria, because the country is in a severe state of social malady.

Salami Slicing: The problematic act of dividing a research report in small units for the sake of multiple publications. In other words, it is the act of breaking a research report into multiple components or pieces and publishing these individual components as separate research articles.

Innovation: The action of making changes in something established, especially through the introduction of new ideas and methods. The term is equally associated with the act of turning ideas into solutions that add value from society’s perspective.

Data Mining: The act of faking data or results in a research context.

Research Misconduct: Ethically unacceptable cultures in research context.

Plagiarism: Derived from the Latin word plagiarus (which means a kidnapper, a stealer, or the abductor of a child or a slave) and the Greek word plagion (which means kidnapper), plagiarism is used to refer to the act of intentionally or unintentionally appropriating another person’s ideas, language, processes, results, or statements without obtaining permission or without giving due credit.

Predatory Journals: Model of academic publishing that is mainly materialistic and exploitative. Such a model basically entails charging (exorbitant) publication fees to authors without providing the kind of robust editorial services associated with genuine publishing businesses. Journals or publishers considered to be predatory are thus noted for publishing counterfeit journals with the principal motivation of exploiting newly designed systems of funding in the publishing chain (such as the Open Access model) which compel the author to pay a fee for the publication of his paper. These predatory publishers are equally known for their lack of transparency and honesty as well as their motivation to dupe particularly the less-experienced researchers.

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