Yesterday Ruth Mueller presented her research at our Information Studies Research Seminar, the talk was entitled “Publications, authorship and academic work: Relating communication and research practices in the life sciences”.
Drawing on interviews with postdocs in the Life Sciences Ruth discussed how publications and authorship have an effect on how academic work is performed. I found it very interesting with the discussion about what values are part of the academic work and how this in turn influence the choices of the postdocs, e.g. that the authorship value of being first author is sometimes overshadowing possible collaborations since articles are the capital you have as a postdoc to develop your career. Ruth talked about how the postdocs act in the present because where they are heading. In life science authorship is strongly formalized and different contributions are placed in certain order and the first author is extremely relevant for career development. This makes postdocs feel uneasy of collaborative work and keeping it to a minimum. The micro struggles that each postdoc have in their work because of attributing authorship, hinders collaboration. At the same time there is an understanding among the postdocs that a good research environment is based in the absent of competition. The competitive situation is both pressing the speed of doing research and making it quantifiable in output. That way individualism is more favored but at the same time this makes researchers feel uneasy. The shift that can happen (or is happening?) is from the larger or unorthodox questions, which becomes less valued in a type of epistemic knowledge that can be produced in this kind of environment or context. Ruth also pointed how the movement of Slow science have noticed this tensions in doing science. The postdocs in her study was critical to the situation at the same time the thing you have to be aware of when doing science is the currency that somehow drives the research. There are no easy answers…read more about Slow science in University Affairs.
And find Ruth’s publications at her webpage as a postdoc at the Research Policy Institute in Lund.