Thursday, May 23, 2019


I review quite a few papers - not Millie Dresselhaus level, but a good number.  Lately, some of the electronic review systems (e.g.,, which is a front end for "Scholar One", a product of Clarivate) have been asking me if I want to "receive publons" in exchange for my reviewing activity. 

What are publons?  Following the wikipedia link above is a bit informative, but doesn't agree much with my impressions (which, of course, might be wrong).   My sense is that the original idea here was to have some way of recording and quantifying how much effort scientists were putting into the peer review process.  Reviewing and editorial activity would give you credit in the form of publons, and that kind of information could be used when evaluating people for promotion or hiring.   (I'm picturing some situation where a certain number of publons entitles you to a set of steak knives (nsfw language warning).)

The original idea now seems to have been taken over by Clarivate, who are the people that run Web of Science (the modern version of the science citation index) and produce bibliographic software that continually wants to be upgraded.  Instead of just a way of doing accounting of reviewing activity, it looks like they're trying to turn publons into some sort of hybrid analytics/research social network platform, like researchgate.  It feels like Clarivate is trying to (big surprise here in the modern age of social media) have users allow a bunch of data collection, which Clarivate will then find a way to monetize.  They are also getting into the "unique researcher identifier" game, apparently in duplication of or competition with orcid.

Maybe it's a sign of my advancing years, but my cynicism about this is pretty high.  Anyone have further insights into this?


Anonymous said...

I thought a publon is a quantum-mechanical excitation of publication?

J said...

No, no, no, a publon is the quantum of publication: the smallest publishable unit.

Anonymous said...

Something interesting to read.