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Zone in with Zon—Are Publications Accelerating More Quickly Than Science Itself?

Dr. Gerald Zon’s latest “Zone in with Zon” blog post, dated December 16, 2013, and published by TriLink BioTechnologies of San Diego, asks the provocative question of whether scientific publications are accelerating at a faster rate than the science itself. He noted that a series of perspective articles in the October 4, 2013 issue of Science focus on the accelerating volume of scientific literature, due in part to the advent of the web and the proliferation of journals. Dr. Zon added that the Science series indicated that a new paper is now published every 20 seconds, which equates, he says, to 1,576,800 new papers a year. His comment on this astounding statistic was simply, “Yikes!”. Dr. Zon recommends a number of different approaches to keeping up amidst this inundation of publications. He notes the utility of RSS feeds and also recommends feeds freely available through PubMed and Google. He also recommends searching on subjects of interest in Google Scholar and then clicking on the Create Alert icon to generate timely messages regarding publications of interest. Dr. Zon also addressed the so-called “Dark Side” of open-access journals and cited the example of a fake paper being created and purposely filled with errors and then submitted to approximately 300 open-access journals. 157 of these journals accepted the fake study for publication. Dr. Zon notes that retractions are now so frequent that there is even a web site (Retraction Watch) that keeps track of them. Dr. Zon believes that this site is well worth visiting. He used a reasonable approach to estimate the number of papers produced in 2013 in certain key areas. In order of volume, were: gene expression: 61,500; PCR: 58,000; sequencing: 29,000; hybridization: 15,500; primers: 9,200; and oligonucleotides: 8,500. He dives a little more deeply into an analysis of oligo publications and then discusses evaluating the quality of a publication using a well-know metric called the h-index, which Dr. Zon says “attempts to measure both the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar based on the set of the scientist’s most cited papers and the number of citations that they have received in other publications. The index can also be applied to the productivity and impact of a group of scientists, such as a department, university or country, as well as a scholarly journal. The index was suggested by Jorge E. Hirsch, a physicist at the University of California-San Diego, as a tool for determining theoretical physicists’ relative quality and is sometimes called the Hirsch index or Hirsch number.” Dr, Zon ends wth cheerful holiday wishes to his many readers and a happy view forward to the new year. Dr. Zon is an eminent nucleic acid chemist and Director of Business Development at TriLink BioTechnologies in San Diego, California. The entirety of Dr. Zon’s latest blog, as well as previous blogs, can be viewed at the link below. [Zon blog post]