An Update from the Research Team – August 2023
“Publish or perish!”
This phrase is learned early in academic training. It often describes the pressure researchers and academics face to continually produce and publish their work in reputable journals or other scholarly outlets to advance their careers. The concept reflects that in academia, the quantity and quality of a researcher’s publications play a crucial role in their reputation, career progression, tenure decisions, and overall success.
The phrase highlights the competitive nature of academia, where the pursuit of tenure, promotions, research grants, and recognition is closely tied to the ability to generate new knowledge and contribute to one’s field through publications. The numerous implications to publishing include the following:
Career Advancement: In many academic institutions, the publication record of researchers is critical in performance evaluation. Tenure-track faculty members often have a specific timeframe during which they must demonstrate their scholarly contributions through several publications. Failing to meet these expectations can lead to not achieving tenure or even losing one’s job. Academics also often have multiple responsibilities, including teaching, administrative duties, and mentoring students. Balancing these responsibilities with the need to produce publishable research can be a juggling act. There are countless examples of scientists caving to such pressures and creating false, flawed, and hurried science that hurts rather than helps humanity.
Research Funding: Researchers often rely on grants and funding to carry out their work, and having a strong publication record can significantly impact their chances of securing such funding. Funding agencies and institutions tend to support projects with a demonstrated track record of producing valuable research outcomes. Grants are peer-reviewed by scientists who are experts in that field. This is often a small circle that is very focused on an academic reputation where those that achieve tend to be funded even if the ideas of others, who are less well published, may be more groundbreaking and hold more potential to be transformative.
Credibility and Reputation: High-quality publications contribute to a scientist’s credibility and reputation. It is a way of showcasing expertise and demonstrating to peers, and the broader academic community, that the researcher is making meaningful contributions to the advancement of knowledge and that this individual is shaping and guiding the future development of that area.
Knowledge Dissemination: The essence of academia is sharing knowledge and ideas with the broader community. Publishing research findings allows for disseminating new knowledge, facilitating ongoing scholarly discussions, and enabling other researchers to build upon existing work. Publishing requires researchers to articulate their ideas, methodologies, and findings in a structured and coherent manner. This process not only helps researchers refine their own thinking but also contributes to the overall body of knowledge in the field.The publication process often involves peer review, where other experts in the field critically assess the quality and validity of the research. This process helps ensure the integrity and accuracy of published works and contributes to academic scholarship’s rigor. However, this is a time-intensive process and can take upwards of a year to complete and often involves rejection, resubmission, possible new experimentation, and revision. The pressure to publish can lead to challenges such as rushed or incomplete research, “salami slicing” (dividing research into smaller, publishable portions), and a focus on quantity over quality. “Publish or perish” encapsulates the demanding environment of academia, where the pressure to consistently publish research is a driving force behind career advancement and the progression of knowledge. While this pressure can lead to important contributions and advancements, it also presents challenges researchers must navigate to balance the quantity and the quality of their scholarly output.
I wanted to provide this backdrop to consider where we stand in bringing about a “brave new world” on the meditation-focused research we have undertaken to uncover how the mind impacts the body to resolve disease. Our ultimate goal is to transform healthcare approaches to integrate meditation through conducting the highest levels of experimental design, integrity, and overall impact of the work.
Considering the sheer number of subjects involved in our studies, the integration of multiple experts from various fields of expertise, and the breadth and depth of experimentation and analysis, we are blazing new ground that is so far beyond what others are doing that the outcomes seem as though they are taking a very long time to produce. However, to put this in context, I have recently been involved in two clinical studies involving 80-150 subjects. These studies have been ongoing for the past 6 years, with the first just recently published and the other likely two years from publication. The time involved in recruiting subjects, carrying out the study, performing the experiments, collecting the data, analyzing the data, drafting the manuscript, and going through the peer review process all add to the extensive timeline.
Our meditation studies have anywhere from 12 (Twins study) to over 1,000 (QUANTUM study) subjects per study. The larger studies take more time and resources to undertake the analyses and more time to put all the conclusions together while making the best considerations of controls. As many of you may have heard, we recently achieved our first publication success with the meditation-Covid manuscript (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666354623000893).
The timeline above outlines the evolution of this study from start to publication (with the caveat that the start was impacted by global shutdowns). The study involved 111 subjects with biological testing and survey data from nearly 3,000 subjects to address real-life implications of the biological data. The study took a total of 43 months (3.6 years) to go from design, to implementation, to analysis, to writing, to being published. This is well ahead of the typical timeline and maintains the high levels of integrity and experimentation our group undertakes. Along the way, we have been steadily working on an additional five studies tied to their own independent manuscripts that we hope to submit for peer review in successive order.
We expect this initial publication will be the first of many; opening the floodgates to realizing the potential of the mind to change the body and to bring this to the forefront of medicine.
As always, I am thankful for your support which has been instrumental in accelerating our timeline. Our group hopes to continue providing more hard evidence to share with the world’s skeptics, but for now, I hope you enjoy reading the published study; share it with as many people as you can, and take a moment to celebrate our shared success.
 Van Noorden R (2017) The science that’s never been cited. Nature 552(7684): 162-164. 10.1038/d41586-017-08404-0