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Almost 60 percent of the scientists in the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) and their partner organizations see themselves under very high pressure to publish as much as possible about their projects. Another 30 percent feel pressure to do so. This is shown by the first results of the new Berlin Science Survey, which the BUA is now pointing out.

The Berlin Science Service team found that the fact that 90 percent see their scientific careers so closely linked to their output in publications has serious consequences for the other activities of the researchers: the publications are prioritized over other tasks – for example at the expense of academic teaching or of open science, i.e. the dissemination of knowledge via networks.

More than 1,000 participants were surveyed from November 2021 to February 2022. They belong to the federal and state-funded excellence network of HU, TU, FU and Charité, as well as the non-university institutions of Allianz Berlin Research 50.

The survey is to be repeated every two years and reflect discussions in Berlin’s “integrated research area” and trends in scientific practice. The Berlin Science Survey is funded by BUA and conducted by the Robert K. Merton Center for Science Studies, based at Humboldt University.

With regard to “good teaching”, only 23.4 percent of those surveyed see themselves under (very) high pressure from their institutions, and the same applies to the topic of “open science”. The Berlin researchers were also asked where they felt the priorities in the science system should lie.

A somewhat different picture emerges here, which could testify to a certain resilience against the pressure of expectations: for 95 percent, “methodological rigor” has the highest or high priority in their own work. In second place is the “originality” of the research with 84.2 percent, followed by “publication output” with 64.1 percent and “good teaching” with 53.6 percent. At the bottom of the personal priorities, however, is again “Open Science” with 43.3 percent.

The Science Survey team states that the high pressure of expectations to publish as much as possible is “usually forced by evaluation regimes”. The background is therefore assessments of the project progress by the sponsors, who value a high output of publications.

The disproportion to personal goals could “both lead to an unnecessary burden on the scientists and have negative effects on the quality of research and teaching,” according to a BUA statement.

Project manager Jens Ambrasat announces that “the various effects of the incentive structures in the science system” will be further investigated. In any case, the BUA has decided to improve the instruments of research evaluation. Future surveys by the Berlin Science Survey should show whether this will also succeed.

At the end of February 2021, young researchers wrote an open letter to the BUA management, as reported, appealing to be relieved of the stress of publication. At that time, the talk was of negative influences on the psyche, especially of doctoral students.