For various reasons, including the general uselessness of academia when confronted with malpractice, this process has been discussed quite extensively on academic Twitter over the last couple of days. Now, MG researches addiction; it's in his job title. So it was perhaps not a surprise that someone tweeted this about his prolificity prolificness big numbers:
(The 120 refers to the guy's publications *so far this year*.)@Audav1 wrote:120 papers a year? It's like some kind of addiction.
I guess one reaction to that could have been to suggest that it was ableist (qv in another thread) in a general sense, but I was slightly surprised by the actual reply that it received:
That got two likes and seems to have gone no further. But it got me thinking. To me, publishing 200 articles a year, some of which the author probably hasn't even read thoroughly (his main line of business is as last author on often rather poor-quality papers with little to say but which appear to be fulfilling someone's degree requirements, often accompanied by generous amounts of citations of not-obviously-related articles from a select handful of journals) is a bit unusual, but then, academics are often a bit unusual. But even with a minimum amount of work per article, this person is clearly spending a substantial proportion of every week working on adding 1 (and another 1, and another) to his publication count, when he is already a full ("distinguished") professor. So perhaps there is some kind of addiction here, despite the "hur-hur" potential of "dude is addicted to publishing research about addiction".@ipanalysis wrote:It is - I think - unironically, a lot like that, so *some* degree of kindness / moderation of the usual twitter fury-shaming would be appropriate.
To be clear, this post isn't really about this professor (although I would welcome opinions about the specific situation). It's about how we judge the behaviour of others, and in particular, the behaviour that we judge to be obnoxious or harmful. As I said at the start, his behaviour is, to all intents and purposes, pretty obnoxious, both professionally and (when questioned) personally. But maybe this is the result of some kind of problem. At that point, what is fair for anyone to criticise? How much do we need to know about someone's internal states before we can call out their behaviour? Should the assortment of mostly junior academics who are dunking on this guy stop doing so because it's unfair to an addict? Or does that have to wait until he apologises and signs up for whatever 12-step programme is available for publication-obsessed professors?
And (the follow-up question), is there a solution that also takes into account the behaviour of, say, Donald Trump --- who appears to be suffering from cognitive deficiencies now, but probably wasn't the most fun person to be around 30 years ago either? Or, at a lower level of bad behaviour, Boris Johnson? Or, to take a recent tragic example, Jonty Bravery?
Whenever I try to think about these issues, I start to fall down the rabbit-hole of free will, which always makes my head spin because I like to think that I decided to post this (and I like to think that I could have decided not to). But where is the line? Where do we say "X is always being a c.nt, and could choose not to be, which makes him ever more of a c.nt", versus "Y is always being a c.nt, but he's been like that since he was born, it's a physiological thing, he'll never be able to change"? Do we think that from, say, 0 to 6 on the Being A c.nt scale people are basically free to move around and so those who are at 6 ought to just bl..dy well try to be nicer people, whereas those who get to 7 and "score" a personality disorder diagnosis are somehow no longer expected to try and improve?