The scientific atmosphere, of Geoscience, and of many other fields, is becoming more and more disappointing. Most people sense it but either they are taking the advantage of it, or think they can’t do anything to make it better.
One thing that has bothered me since a long time is the coauthorship. We see so many big names everywhere as if their minds are a parallel computation system. Or we see 10 coauthors on a paper that was being done by 1-2 people. Many PhD students add their supervisors or their department head as the authors as a rule, and add people suggested by their supervisors irregardless of their contributions. Possibly half of the coauthors have no ideas about their coauthored papers. Many people use coauthorship as a trade: for an easier publication, a faster distribution, a future collaboration, pleasing someone, getting the degree ,…, or simple you-add-me-and-I-add-you.
We know this is so unfair to people who did the actual work, and causes wrong judgment. But why can it not be changed? The darker problem is: many big names, senior researchers, or professors, are losing their ability to do science. Is it their fault? I would immediately think about the burden of applying for funding, teaching, being on a committee, organizing, and networking: where is the time to do research?
It seems a paradox: if you don’t do research, you can’t get the funding, but you don’t have the time for research because you need time to apply for funding. So there is an easier way: coauthoring and supervising. How many supervisors only supervised the student on things besides the idea, thinking, and implementations? How many supervisors are taking credits from the students’ ideas and findings?
Since we have talked about the project and fundings, there is another vicious problem: a supervisor hires a PhD to accomplish the project but not to raise him/her as a scientist. Have your supervisor asked you to do things just to accomplish the project, but not to pursue science? We are used to hear that a PhD student is like a donkey or a slave, but if I really think about it, I feel really sad because this is no joke.
I do not want to grumble much, but at least I will make a promise to myself: from my next paper, the coauthorship is only about contributions. If one day I fall behind the front-edge research, I will acknowledge it and quit supervising students. I do hope, no professor will supervise a student in a distorted way. People will understand if someone doesn’t publish a lot every year, but people also know how someone could have their names here and there.