The pitfalls of "salami slicing": Focus on quality and not quantity of publications
- Career distortions. Salami slicing is widely regarded as a practice that researchers employ to increase their volume of publications, borne of the “publish and perish” culture.5 In the short term, salami science may allow scientists and researchers to progress faster in their careers or receive more funding than they actually merit, owing to the greater number of publications they can list on their resume.6,7 However, salami slicing can be harmful in the long term, since it diminishes the value of each publication. You may have managed to add a long list of publications to your name through salami publications, but if a committee were to review the body of work, they might conclude that the studies themselves are not substantial enough.
- Harm to science. Publishing unnecessary and repetitive information increases the amount of literature, but not the amount of knowledge. If closely related data from a single group is divided across several papers, readers who access only one of the papers may misinterpret the findings. Further, multiple reports may cause a set of findings to be given more importance that it deserves. For instance, in the example mentioned in the beginning, another researcher conducting a meta-analysis on the new intervention for birthing centers might erroneously assume that this intervention has been studied twice, rather than once.
Is it always wrong to report a single study through multiple papers?
In some cases where the original data-set is extremely large (e.g., a population-based study) and when the data-set takes years to collect and analyze, the authors have justifiable and legitimate grounds to report the research in more than one paper.6,8 However, each paper should address distinct and important questions.8 If the study is motivated and designed around a single hypothesis, its results should be presented to the readers as a single package, regardless of the size of the data-set. 4
A paper will have a greater chance of publication as a full-scale study, rather than a fragment of a larger study. Focus on the quality of your publications, not quantity. Salami slicing to increase the number of publications on your resume might only end up sabotaging your research career at a later stage.
For a quick and easy-learning video on salami slicing, click here: