Fragmented Publication - Case B2

Esther Brezinska is an assistant professor at a medical school where she has been employed in a tenure-track appointment since completing a productive postdoctoral research fellowship five years ago. Two years ago, she was awarded her first investigator-initiated grant from the National Institutes of Health and is now anticipating preparation of a competitive renewal application for submission next year .Next year, she also will be evaluated for promotion to associate professor and award of tenure.

Dr. Brezinska has developed a successful technique for culturing prostatic epithelial cells. Her NIH grant was awarded on the basis of that success and the promise that the technique holds for testing a variety of growth promoting and inhibitory substances. Her work has important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of prostatic cancer.

At this juncture, Dr. Brezinska has tested two hormones and two growth factors with positive and potentially exciting results. Experiments utilizing five more substances are in various stages of progress, and she has plans to test at least five additional agents. She believes that it is time to publish these results beyond the abstracts and poster presentations that she has regularly presented at meetings as the work progressed. Now she faces a dilemma.

The most prestigious journal in her field requests authors "not to separate fragments of a study into individual reports, but rather to strive for full development of a topic." On the other hand, she suspects that the medical school's promotion committee emphasizes numbers of publications over the quality of content when reviewing bibliographies of candidates for tenure. She wonders if the NIH study section that will review her renewal application will be similarly disposed. It would be easy to write up the results of the first four experiments as a single report, since they are closely related, but it might be of strategic value to have four separate references in her curriculum vitae.


  1. What should be Dr. Brezinska' s primary considerations as she evaluates how to publish her research findings in the scientific literature?
  2. If she opts for publishing a few comprehensive reports, rather than a greater number of less substantive papers, by what mechanism can her various evaluators know that she is attempting to make a more scholarly contribution?
  3. If Dr. Brezinska were at your institution, what kind of advice would she likely get from her department chair or mentor concerning her dilemma?
  4. A Japanese scientist whom she knew as a postdoctoral fellow has offered to translate Dr. Brezinska's publications into Japanese and to submit them to a Japanese language journal that appears to be anxious to publish her work. Dr. Brezinska rationalizes that this will increase readership of her work in Japan, enhance her international reputation, and at the same time provide additional titles (in Japanese) in her curriculum vitae. Would she violate any fundamental principles in doing so?
  5. Dr. Gordon Ryan, an assistant professor in the Department of Urology, has been invaluable in providing prostatic cells for Dr. Brezinska's studies. She, in turn, has helped him with the technicalities of immunocytochemical procedures in his own investigations. Dr. Ryan suggests that if each of them lists the other as coauthor in their respective publications, both of their prospects for promotion might be enhanced. Dr. Brezinska suspects that a refusal to engage in this practice might jeopardize chances for Dr. Ryan's future cooperation. How can she resolve this issue productively?


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