At a recent Public Library of Science (PLoS) journal editors’ meeting, we were having a discussion about the work of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE; http://www.publicationethics.org/), a forum for editors to discuss research and publication misconduct. Part of the discussion centered on the impact such cases have on the scientific reputation of those involved. We began musing: What on earth is a scientific reputation anyway? Not coming up with a satisfactory answer, we turned to a source of endless brainpower—students and other editors. Having posed the question to a group of graduate students, PLoS, and other editors, we got almost as many different answers as people asked, albeit with some common themes. They all mentioned the explicit elements of a reputation that relate to measurables such as number of publications, H factor, overall number of citations etc., but they also alluded to a variety of different, qualitative, factors that somehow add up to the overall sense of reputation that one scientist has for another.
This paper is a bit over ten years old. Ten? We have given up saying how quickly time passes because we have realised the older you get, the faster the time goes. Despite its age, this paper by Philip and the always brilliant Ginny Barbour contains some excellent ideas and is incredibly useful reading for researchers, regardless of their career stage. In the context of thinking about research culture and promoting responsible conduct, these aren’t only useful for thinking about one’s own career, it should be how we think about the CV and career of others.
A scientific reputation is not immediate, it is acquired over a lifetime and is akin to compound interest—the more you have the more you can acquire. It is also very easy to lose, and once gone, nearly impossible to recover. Why is this so? The scientific grapevine is extensive and constantly in use. Happenings go viral on social networks now, but science has had a professional and social network for centuries; a network of people who meet each other fairly regularly and, like everyone else, like to gossip. So whether it is a relatively new medium or a centuries-old medium, good and bad happenings travel quickly to a broad audience. Given this pervasiveness, here are some rules, some intuitive, for how to build and maintain a scientific reputation.
Bourne PE & Barbour V (2011) Ten Simple Rules for Building and Maintaining a Scientific Reputation. PLoS Computational Biology 7(6): e1002108. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002108