Journal Impact Factor Shapes Scientists’ Reward Signal in the Prospect of Publication

The incentive structure of a scientist’s life is increasingly mimicking economic principles. While intensely criticized, the journal impact factor (JIF) has taken a role as the new currency for scientists. Successful goal-directed behavior in academia thus requires knowledge about the JIF. Using functional neuroimaging we examined how the JIF, as a powerful incentive in academia, has shaped the behavior of scientists and the reward signal in the striatum. We demonstrate that the reward signal in the nucleus accumbens increases with higher JIF during the anticipation of a publication and found a positive correlation with the personal publication record (pJIF) supporting the notion that scientists have incorporated the predominant reward principle of the scientific community in their reward system. The implications of this behavioral adaptation within the ecological niche of the scientist’s habitat remain unknown, but may also have effects which were not intended by the community.

Click here to read more from this November 10, 2015 PLOS ONE paper by Frieder Michel Paulus et al.

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