South African incentive programme has attracted criticism for encouraging unethical behaviour.
A survey of nearly 1,000 academic researchers in South Africa suggests that the majority are in favour of keeping a government scheme that offers cash rewards for publishing research papers in accredited journals, even though they agree that this can promote unethical practices.
The implications of this Nature piece aren’t especially astounding. Points to the possibility that incentive-based publishing systems such as those used in South Africa will shape publication practices (including use of predatory publishing) even more in times of resource scarcity. What is surprising is the number of researchers who acknowledge the damage it is doing but personally miss out on the prospect of a cash reward. We have included links to nine related items.
Under the scheme, researchers can receive about 120,000 rand per published article. The subsidies were initially implemented in 2005 to drive academic output, and it worked: South Africa’s overall research output rose from 4,063 articles in 2005 to 25,371 in 2018.
But the system has attracted criticism. Some researchers say that it promotes publishing in predatory journals, which charge fees but typically do not provide peer review or other quality checks, and that it encourages the ‘salami slicing’ of research to produce multiple papers from a study rather than one high-quality article. The incentive scheme came under scrutiny after a 2017 study1 found that between 2005 and 2014, the government had paid up to 300 million rand in subsidies for articles published in predatory journals, which had somehow found their way onto the government’s list of approved publications.
- Mouton, J. & Valentine, A. S. Afr. J. Sci. 113, 2017-0010 (2020).