In all areas of scholarly endeavour, the advancement of knowledge is dependent on the publication of original peer-reviewed articles. This is particularly true in our own field of medical imaging as we focus on the early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Yesterday, Times Higher Education (THE), which publishes the World University Rankings, reported the extraordinary story of Mark Griffiths who, in 2020 alone, has thus far published 161 papers – one every two days. Clearly the coronavirus pandemic has not slowed him down!
Griffiths (seen below left) is the most prolific psychologist in the UK and holds a distinguished professorship at Nottingham Trent University where his research concentrates on all types of addiction: gambling, video games, internet, exercise and sex. According to his Google Scholar listing, he has some impressive statistics: at least 1,200 publications, more than 80,000 citations, and an h-index of 141, meaning that 141 of his papers have each garnered at least 141 citations. This does of course beg the question: How does Griffiths sustain such a staggering output when many academics are happy to publish two or three papers per annum?
Griffiths acknowledged that he benefits from a large stable of collaborators – Scopus records 898 co-authors – and explained: “The vast majority of my co-authors come from my PhD students – I have eight to ten students at any one time and some have since become prolific publishers.” Presumably they continue to add their old professor’s name to all their publications! Griffiths nevertheless insists he makes an intellectual contribution to every publication, that he works hard at 60 hours per week, and he benefits from a light teaching load – just one month per year.
Unsurprisingly, Griffiths’ productive output has drawn the attention of fellow academics. Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at Oxford University, has analysed the most prolific author (MPA) for 99 journals over the period 2015 to 2020. What she shows (below right) is that Griffiths has co-authored more than 12% of the papers in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions (JBA) and the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction (IJMHA). Given his association with both journals, Bishop has raised the red flag about possible editorial bias.
In South Africa, the government encourages academics to publish in peer-reviewed journals by paying a subsidy – up to $10,000 per article – to their host institution. This is a perverse incentive, encouraging quantity over quality, and has had unintended consequences. That said, some of our universities would love to recruit the prolific Professor Griffiths!