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What’s a paper worth?

There’s no perfect way to value publications—but we should still try, says Sandra Rousseau

Over and above its intellectual and practical content, publishing an academic paper has value in itself. A doctoral student’s first publication is cause for celebration; career paths depend on researchers’ publication records; and funding decisions consider the likelihood of future publications. 

Thus, publications have many sorts of value—to publishers, their authors, to institutions and to wider society. This gives them what economists call a ‘use value’, in terms of yielding concrete benefits, and a ‘non-use value’—people value discovery and knowledge for its own sake, even if it may not have a practical application.

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