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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-3

From Publish or Perish (POP) to Publish under Pressure (PUP)

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, MGM Medical College and Hospital, MGM Institute of Health Sciences, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission04-Feb-2022
Date of Acceptance04-Feb-2022
Date of Web Publication23-Mar-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sushil Kumar
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, MGM Medical College and Hospital, MGM Institute of Health Sciences, Navi Mumbai 410209, Maharashtra.
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mgmj.mgmj_11_22

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How to cite this article:
Kumar S. From Publish or Perish (POP) to Publish under Pressure (PUP). MGM J Med Sci 2022;9:1-3

How to cite this URL:
Kumar S. From Publish or Perish (POP) to Publish under Pressure (PUP). MGM J Med Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 May 18];9:1-3. Available from: http://www.mgmjms.com/text.asp?2022/9/1/1/340579

The term “Publish or Perish” (POP) has been in vogue for quite some time. We all heard various eminent guest speakers talking about it during professional conferences. They were heard in great admiration but nothing concrete was done to put it into practice until MCI (Medical Council of India) in 2015 made it a mandatory requirement for postgraduate (PG) students and medical teachers. Today we have a flood of publications but the quality and ethical issues seem to be compromised. I, through the medium of this editorial, take the opportunity to sum up the shift in the concept from POP to Publish under Pressure (PUP) and as it is perceived and practiced today.

  History Top

There is no agreement on who coined the phrase “POP.” The writer Imad Moosa[1] in his excellent monograph has gone into some details about tracing the origin of this popular phrase. He conducted the online/print search but could not trace the originator of the phrase. Some of the investigators feel that the term “POP” was probably coined by Coolidge in 1932.[2] According to Garfield 1996,[1],[3] the phrase first appeared in a book, The Academic Man by Wilson in 1942. However, he was not sure if Wilson cited someone or coined the phrase himself. Sojaka and Mayland (1993) attribute this phrase to Kimball Atwood, a geneticist at Columbia University.[1] Beard (1965), though not the originator of the phrase, emphasized that academic recognition will depend on one’s contribution to publication in his or her field.[3]

  Compulsory regulatory norms for postgraduate students Top

Over the years, there have been attempts to induce the students toward creativity and research. Creativity is being appreciated even in kindergarten and primary schools in form of project work. During the MBBS degree course also, the students are being encouraged to take up short research work. Dissertation/thesis/research work is a compulsory requirement or a passport to appear for MS/MD postgraduation degree examinations in India. Besides all this, it is now mandatory for students to publish one paper, present one paper, and a poster at a national or state conference.[4] Although it may be justified to some extent to encourage a research atmosphere in the country, most of us will agree that these mandatory requirements are at the cost of time devoted to patient care.

  Compulsory regulatory norms for academic promotions Top

There has been continuous churning in medical academia in India, both for the students and for the teachers. The publication has become a buzzword. I have never seen so much interest to the point of desperation among students and teachers for publication in the journals approved by the regulators. Recently in 2020, an amendment has been made by MCI/NMC (Medical Council of India/National Medical Commission) in the regulation known as “Minimal qualifications for teachers in Medical Institutions,” where valid publications are considered necessary for promotions.[5]

Promotion to professor requires at least three publications and at least two as associate professors. Type of articles and indexing authorities are also specified. Similar criteria are laid out for promotion from assistant professor to associate professor.

  Accreditation and ranking of institutions on the basis of published articles Top

Research and publications are a very important part of the accreditation of a university or an independent institution. In India, National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)—a government organization—awards the ranking to the institutions. NAAC keenly looks at the research profile of an institution before awarding the grades. In a true sense, “POP” phrase is more relevant to the institutions as students may not join a low-ranking institution, funding may not be available and that may ultimately lead to demotion or closure of the institution.

Some of the institutions recruit eminent medical writers with impressive bibliographies to improve the ranking of an institution, whereas others place the onus on existing faculty members. However, I do admit that the institutional pressure on the doctors to increase their research output may be at the cost of their clinical and academic duties.[6]

  Benefits of mandatory publications Top

There is political awareness around the world that research is essential for the academic and financial growth of a country. If we look at the top three countries in the world like the USA, China, and Japan it is apparent that it was innovation and research which were major factors responsible for their growth. The mandatory publications may induce some of the students and faculty members to carry on with quality research which may uplift them, their institutions as well as the country. I have seen the change of attitude among students and faculty members towards research and publications after NMC notification made it compulsory. Before 2015, there were very few inclined publications but today every one of them is aware and keen to take up research projects. There is a perceptible shift in attitude among PG students and medical faculty members. Any biodata of medical personnel for a job is considered incomplete without the mention of a few publications. In simple terms, the publications and research can be used as academic currency by the researchers.[7]

  Roadblocks in initiating and conducting a research project Top

  1. Finding Finances for “research projects” is a major problem. The research projects need considerable resources in form of equipment, disposable, lab investigations, drugs, and expensive MRI, CT, or PET scans. All these essentials need considerable finances. Most of the private and government institutions do not have adequate financial resources to fund the project in-house. Grants from Government bodies are rarely available more so to private institutions. Getting funds from major corporates is also scarce. The private institutions often institute awards for some projects but such awards are inadequate and far in between.

  2. There is a need for dedicated manpower and research assistants for most of the research projects like in developed countries. Again, the hiring needs money which generally is not available to researchers in developing countries. The researcher himself has to collect the data, analyze it, write the script and publish it. It is strenuous for medical personal working on the clinical side as the research work is over and above the clinical, procedural, operative, and academic work.

  3. The lack of practical knowledge about formulating a suitable project is also a common problem. Although a short module on research methodology is conducted for all the PG students on joining and the faculty members, they need guidance from an accomplished researcher and statistician who could help them in designing, analyzing, and publishing a scientific study. Over the years, I have come across many faculty members and students who are keen on doing research projects but do not have the expertise to initiate and complete a project.

  Adverse effects of mandatory publications Top

  1. The ompulsory or mandatory publications have created a sort of desperation and urgency among the PG students and faculty members, an environment that may not be conducive for quality research. Now the majority of students and teachers think of publishing because they have to, the novelty and value of their research paper have taken a back seat.

  2. Desperation for publication may be responsible for “Increasing tendency towards data manipulation, ghost writing, plagiarism, self-plagiarism or double publishing of data.”[8]

  3. Flooding of relevant/irrelevant articles on the internet.[7] As per information available in the public domain, India has more than 500 medical colleges. On average, each college has about 100 PG students and about 200 faculty members. If they have to publish at least one paper every year, the total number of medical papers published in India would be about 150,000 every year. These estimates could be on the lower side as we are not counting biotechnology, physiotherapy, nursing, pharma, and dental departments. The question is Do we have so many NMC approved journals in India to publish 1.5 lakhs articles every year? Will any of the high-impact international journals will accept even a fraction of this huge number? As most of the reputed journals are extremely choosy about what they publish, it is almost impossible to get an article accepted by them.

  4. Due to the paucity of high-quality journals, several “Predatory Journals” have mushroomed all over the world. These predatory journals publish almost everything even without peer review at a cost paid by the author. Cariappa et al.[9] brought the attention of medical academicians towards the menace of predatory journals proliferating across the world using the limitless reach of the internet. It is also surprising that most of these journals fulfill the indexing criteria laid down by the regulatory bodies enticing the PG students to use them as an easier route to fulfill the regulatory requirement.


There are varied opinions and queries from the students and teachers in the medical field. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Does POP or Pressure to Publish (PTP) culture stimulate quality research? PG students often ask “Why mandatory publication is necessary when they are submitting original research papers in form of a dissertation?” The medical teaching faculty members wonder “Why publications are given more importance for academic promotions in the medical branch since their primary job is teaching and patient care”? Incidentally, NMC is yet to come out with criteria for promotion based on teaching, the clinical and technical ability of teachers.

  2. Readers often mention that “Too many tech requirements and statistics have taken away the joy of reading or writing an article.” On online search, there are just too many articles on any subject. The question is “How to find right article among the flood of publications.” Some tech-savvy students and teachers suggest the use of “Artificial intelligence in the future to get the right kind of writing.”

  3. For editorial staff, there are many unanswered questions. Can a researcher present a paper on a topic at a professional conference and publish the same in a different journal? What Should there be punishment for plagiarism or double publishing? What should we do when an author sends one article to several journals and “Article Retraction” after acceptance by more than one journal.

  4. The publications form an important part of “Curriculum vitae” (CV), or biodata or resume sent by an applicant for a job. Often asked question is “How many publications one should have in a biodata?” Which is more important, “Quantity or Quality”? I frankly admit most of the publications are for CV building rather than a new research outcome for the benefit of mankind. Here I also would like to mention that biochemist Watson had only 15 articles on his CV when he was awarded the Noble prize for his article on “Double Helix” structure of DNA.[1]

To conclude I would like to say that despite a few roadblocks and shortcomings the new NMC regulations are a good beginning to inculcate the sense of research among medical students and teachers. However, now it is time to create a good ecosystem to facilitate quality research, especially by providing the necessary funds and guidance of experienced researchers. Regarding plagiarism, data manipulation, and other moral issues, one has to search for their conscience. POP could be a misnomer but PUP is real, we have to learn to cope with the publication pressure.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Moosa IA Publish or Perish: Perceived Benefits versus Unintended Consequences. Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing; 2018. p. 232. Available from: http://doi.org/10.4337/9781786434937. [Last accessed on 2022 Feb 3].  Back to cited text no. 1
Rawat S, Meena S Publish or Perish: Where are we heading? J Res Med Sci 2014;19:87-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
van Dalen HP How the publish-or-perish principle divides a science: The case of economists. Scientometrics 2021;126:1675-94.  Back to cited text no. 3
National Medical Commission Postgraduate Medical Education Board. Postgraduate Medical Education Regulations. New Delhi: The Author; 2021. p. 36. Available from: https://www.nmc.org.in/MCIRest/open/getDocument?path=/Documents/Public/Portal/LatestNews/Draft%20PGME%20Regulation%20Octoberr%202021.pdf. [Last accessed on 2022 Jan 28].  Back to cited text no. 4
The Gazette of India, no. 66, 17 February 2020. Minimum Qualifications for Teachers in Medical Institutions Regulations dated 12 February 2020. New Delhi: Department of Publication, Government of India Printing Press; 2020. Available from: https://www.worldwidejournals.com/paripex/MCI_Circular.pdf. [Last accessed on 2022 Jan 28].  Back to cited text no. 5
Guraya SY, Norman RI, Khoshhal KI, Guraya SS, Forgione A Publish or Perish mantra in the medical field: A systematic review of the reasons, consequences and remedies. Pak J Med Sci 2016;32:1562-7.  Back to cited text no. 6
Spitale G Making sense in the flood: How to cope with the massive flow of digital information in medical ethics. Heliyon 2020;6:e04426.  Back to cited text no. 7
Neill US Publish or Perish, but at what cost? J Clin Invest 2008;118:2368.  Back to cited text no. 8
Cariappa MP, Dalal SS, Chatterjee K To publish and perish: A Faustian bargain or a Hobson’s choice. Medical J Armed Forces India 2016;72:168-71.  Back to cited text no. 9


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