Publons

Recent discoveries in the particle physics of the scientific publication industry have confirmed some hitherto ill-defined properties of the elusive publon particle.

Originally discovered in Oxford, according to disputed reports, the publon is the elementary particle of scientific publication. A recent international congress [1] agreed on a definition: "the elementary quantum of scientific research which justifies publication". However, the exact measurements were the subject of heated debate and no agreement was possible.

It has long been known that publons are mutually repulsive. The chances of finding more than one publon in a paper are negligible [2].

The recent discoveries seem to confirm suspicions that publons can exist in more than one place simultaneously. Evidence from conferences in the more prolific disciplines, as diverse as Artificial Neural Networks, Cancer and AIDS research, and DNA Fingerprinting, has confirmed that the same publon has appeared in more than one conference or journal publication at the same time.

Even more intriguing is the apparent ability of the same publon to manifest itself at widely separated instants in time. Once alerted to this new property, researchers have been inundated with confirmed reports of papers containing the same ideas separated by several years or even decades. One reason why this has not emerged until now seems to be that a publon can manifest itself with different words and terminology on each occasion, thus defeating observations with even the most powerful database scanners.

From this, one can conclude that publons occupy a warped space-time continuum, and thus may be the first elementary particle to be confirmed to do so. Time travel, at least in the reverse direction, is a possibility. Spatial and time confusion are more definite probabilities.

Of perhaps most concern is the likelihood of multiple publon images, particularly in CV's. Therefore, readers are warned to be cautious with publication lists, and to verify the exact number of distinct publons which give rise to the many publon images visible within the lists. The number of publons is likely to be less than the number of distinctly observable images, though the multiple image factor is known to vary widely.

Researchers creating publons face the greatest difficulties arising from this research. For their career prospects depend not so much on the number of publons they create, as the number of images which are apparent to their employers. While word processors have helped enormously, drastically reducing the time needed to create publon images, their quality is subjected to an unprecedented level of quantitative analysis. Many believe that such quantitative analysis is neither feasible or economically justifiable. Most seem to agree that quality assessment requires experience of publon creation, and cannot be left to amateurs.

[1] International Council of Scientific Unions, Working Party on Scientific Publication, Committee on Free Circulation of Scientific Ideas, XXV meeting, Aachen, Germany, 1991, pp 55423-87.

[2] International Standards Organization, ISO/TC 297/SC 42/WG 3 N 8/ Revision 25b/ 1981-10-32.

James Trevelyan, Peter Kovesi


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