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Bioimpacts. 2020;10(1):5-7. doi: 10.15171/bi.2019.30. Epub 2019 Sep 25.

The urgent need for modification of scientific ranking indexes to facilitate scientific progress and diminish academic bullying.

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Department of Radiology and Precision Health Program, Michigan State University, MI, USA.
Academic Parity Movement Organization, MA, USA.
School of Business, Wake Forest University, NC, USA.


Academic bullying occurs when senior scientists direct abusive behavior such as verbal insults, public shaming, isolation, and threatening toward vulnerable junior colleagues such as postdocs, graduate students and lab members. We believe that one root cause of bullying behavior is the pressure felt by scientists to compete for rankings designed to measure their scientific worth. These ratings, such as the h-index, have several unintended consequences, one of which we believe is academic bullying. Under pressure to achieve higher and higher rankings, in exchange for positive evaluations, grants and recognition, senior scientists exert undue pressure on their junior staff in the form of bullying. Lab members have little or no recourse due to the lack of fair institutional protocols for investigating bullying, dependence on grant or institutional funding, fear of losing time and empirical work by changing labs, and vulnerability to visa cancellation threats among international students. We call for institutions to reconsider their dependence on these over-simplified surrogates for real scientific progress and to provide fair and just protocols that will protect targets of academic bullying from emotional and financial distress.


Academic bullying; H-index; Nobel Prize

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