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Why is the popularity of short communications decreasing?


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Short communications are brief articles that present potentially important results for rapid dissemination.
  • Publication of short communications is in decline due, in part, to the shifting publishing landscape and changing attitudes of the scientific community.

Publication of short communications has provided an essential means of rapidly disseminating key information to the scientific community over the years. Despite their important role, the use of short communications seems to be in decline. A recent short note from Professors Jeremiah Joaquin and Raymond Tan in Scientometrics discusses this phenomenon and its implications for scientific research.

Short communications come in many forms, including concise articles reporting primary research results, commentaries, perspectives, and letters to the editor. Although brief, they have contributed to many scientific advances over the years. Notably, Watson and Crick reported the DNA double-helix structure in 1953 as a two-page note in Natureit was published less than a month after it was submitted.

“In principle, short communications in academic journals provide an avenue for rapid publication of potentially important results and up-to-date information, without the detailed documentation that comes with a full-length research article.”

The speed of publishing short communications has had a notable positive impact on medicine and health in recent years. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a research note published in JAMA highlighted the likely role of asymptomatic coronavirus transmission and, in turn, contributed to uptake of various control measures around the world.

Although there are numerous cases of successful short communications, the popularity of the format amongst academics seems to be dwindling. The authors offer 5 reasons for this:

  • academics may think that short communications are of lesser quality or undergo less rigorous peer review than full-length research articles
  • emergence of other digital platforms, such as preprint servers, blogs, and social media, may lead people to believe that short communications are obsolete
  • publishing short communications may not be seen to increase academic standing in the field
  • some journal editors may consider short communications as archaic or detrimental to performance metrics (eg Impact Factor or CiteScore)
  • technological shifts of journals (eg online in-press publication) have weakened the original purpose of short communications, ie rapid publication.

Professors Joaquin and Tan shared concerns that the diminishing status of short communications may prevent potentially ground-breaking ideas from being published, or lessen their impact if they are published as full articles at a later date. The authors call upon journal editors to ensure that brief papers continue to remain an integral part of journal portfolios despite the ongoing technical and digital innovations occurring in scientific publishing.

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What do you think – is there still a key role for short communications in scientific publishing?

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