Publiphilia Impactfactorius: a new psychiatric syndrome among biomedical scientists?

Last modified: October 25, 2017

A new tongue-in-cheek article by Joeri K Tijdink, Yvo M Smulders, and Lex M Bouter

Preprint available here:

To explore clusters of personality traits among biomedical scientists, and to associate the clusters with academic position and research misbehaviour we designed a cross-sectional study with cluster analysis of personality traits among a stratified sample of Dutch biomedical scientists working in academic medical centers.

We used the NEO-BIG5, Rosenberg Self-esteem, Achievement Motivation Inventory and the Dark Triad (narcissistic, Machiavellianistic and psychopathic personality traits) as validatedquestionnaires. Self-reported research misconduct was assessed via a separate questionnaire. We included 537 active biomedical scientists completed a web-based survey (response rate 65%). Cluster analysis revealed the existence of three personality clusters among biomedical scientists: the ‘perfectionist’, the ‘ideal son-in-law’ and the ‘sneaky grandiose’. The latter cluster showed a consistent set of (subclinical) personality traits such as narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism, that are indicative of the presence of a mental disorder, but could not be classified as such in terms of the DSM-IV TR or ICD-10. Male gender, higher academic hierarchical position, perceived publication pressure and, importantly, self-reported scientific misbehaviour were associated with the ‘sneaky grandiose’ personality cluster.

These findings suggest that biomedical scientists in the ‘sneaky grandiose’ personality cluster have a relatively high propensity to engage in research misbehaviour. A small proportion of the ‘sneaky grandiose’ might suffer from a psychiatric condition characterized by pathological preoccupation with publishing and being cited. We therefore propose to name this syndrome ‘Publiphilia Impactfactorius’ (PI), and we suggest this affliction should be considered in revised versions of DSM5 and ICD-10. We provide tentative diagnostic criteria for PI. Early identification and intensive treatment or, alternatively, expulsion and annihilation of colleagues who suffer from PI may prevent further accumulation of research waste.

Retraction Watch published an interview with the first author here:

Tijdink JK, Smulders YM, Bouter LM. (2017) Publiphilia Impactfactorius: a new psychiatric syndrome among biomedical scientists? PeerJ Preprints 5:e3347v1

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