Mark Griffiths: the professor who publishes a paper every two days

Gambling studies expert puts extraordinary output down to collaboration and hard work

October 22, 2020
Mark Griffiths professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University

With a peer-reviewed journal paper published every two days this year, Mark Griffiths is not a researcher whose scholarly output has been slowed by the coronavirus crisis.

The UK’s most prolific psychologist, who is distinguished professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, has published 161 times so far in 2020, according to the Scopus database, which records papers, books, conference proceedings and letters – taking his career publication tally to 864.

That impressive figure may understate his true output: Google Scholar attributes at least 1,200 publications to his name, which have helped him gain some 80,000 citations, including 50,000 in the past five years alone.

So how does Professor Griffiths produce this staggering number of papers when many social psychologists are pleased to publish one or two articles a year? Having a large stable of research collaborators was one of the main reasons, he told Times Higher Education Scopus puts his total number of co-authors at 898.

“The vast majority of my co-authors come from my PhD students – I have eight to 10 PhD students at any one time and some [former students] have since become highly prolific publishers,” he explained.

Professor Griffiths, who is director of NTU’s International Gaming Research Unit, insisted that he had “made an intellectual contribution to every refereed paper I’ve published” and was often involved in the design of research projects, oversight and the critical review of manuscripts.

The issue of professors gaining authorship credit for critically reviewing manuscripts can be controversial, even if it is accepted by publishers and is officially recognised by the Contributor Roles Taxonomy (CRediT) system. For Professor Griffiths, his input is significant. “I can spend five or six hours on the first draft of a paper and some papers go through up to 10 redrafts,” he said.

“Every single day someone sends me a paper saying ‘I’d love to have your name on this’, but I tell them no – unless I’ve made an intellectual contribution, I will not have my name on a paper,” he said.

However, given the immense work involved in this reviewing role alone, how is it possible to publish so much? “The answer is that I have never worked a 37-hour week – typically I work 50 to 60 hours a week,” Professor Griffiths said.

“All my teaching is compressed into one month between January and mid-February too, so I can just get on with working with who I want to,” he added, saying that, as a young lecturer, he once published only a single paper in 1992.

“If your teaching takes up a huge amount of your time, you can’t publish much but once you have some good PhD students it gets easier.”

Professor Griffiths’ most frequent collaborators include Zsolt Demetrovics, editor of the Hungary-based Journal of Behavioral Addictions, with whom he has published 101 times. A blog by Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at the University of Oxford, noted that Professor Griffiths featured as a co-author on 13 per cent of that journal’s papers (51 out of 384 articles) over the past five years, prompting the journal’s publisher to assert that the articles had been independently reviewed and that there was no suggestion of preferential treatment.

For his part, Professor Griffiths felt that the real problem in hyper-prolific publishing lay in the sciences, where research group and laboratory leaders routinely add their names to papers, allowing them to clock up hundreds of authorial credits a year.

“As a rule of thumb you should be doing at least 5 per cent of the work [to get an author credit], so I cannot believe it when you see papers with 2,000 authors – that is the real story of ethics in publishing,” he said.

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Reader's comments (26)

Please can you explain why you have published this article mid-way through one of the most stressful semesters on record, and what you hoped to achieve by writing about 50-60 hour work weeks without critique.
Agree with this comment. There is no acknowledgement of the context we are in now, in terms of COVID-19 and increased stress and demands on academics. Neither is there any depth or discussion about the impact of existing inequalities faced by women and BME academics who don't have the luxury of being in control of their work timetables/demands and are less likely to be awarded grants that would give them the time to write manuscripts. These inequalities have been exacerbated by COVID-19.
Most of us have spent our careers working 50+ hours a week and cannot (and indeed should not) produce so many papers. I remember when I was a PhD student, papers were only written when there was something worthwhile to say. Luckily, I am near the end of my career so a few papers a year is sufficient to keep me off the "unsatisfactory" list. In many fields, work takes a long time and so a rate of production such as that described is not possible.
Couldn't agree more. I know an academic who unfortunately never stops working, but the difference is she devotes this time to her students, to running her programmes, and to trying keep her head just above water. As someone else suggests below, being a personal publishing mill just feeds the metrics machines and is hardly something to aspire to. The article headline could be 'Is this what we have come to?'
Whilst Elsevier have adopted the Contributor Roles Taxonomy in their journals, and were contributors to the development of the system, it should correctly be attributed to the Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information (CASRAI) who co-ordinated the input from many researchers, editors and publishers from across the world. Given this article covers authorship issues, it would be good if you could correct this misattribution!
>Professor Griffiths, who is director of NTU’s International Gaming Unit, insisted that he >had “made an intellectual contribution to every refereed paper I’ve published” and was >often involved in the design of research projects, oversight and the critical review of >manuscripts. Of course he insists, he can't just say his work does not value. My comment is that he can say whatever he likes to say, but, with such numbers, I simply do not believe he could make an intellectual contribution to every refereed paper including his name. Perhaps (perhaps) he could "review" all manuscripts (IMHO how critically it does review not really matters, as - at his merit - his collaborators might have learned and/or shortly discussed with him before writing how to write the paper), unless journal papers in his field are extended abstracts or less (anyway, at a rate of more than 100 papers / year, also in such a case, it is IMHO quite unlikely that he could make an intellectual contribution to every paper). Concerning the nasty sentence about the ethic problem to be in science (For his part, Professor Griffiths felt that the real problem in hyper-prolific publishing lay in the sciences, where research group and laboratory leaders routinely add their names to papers, allowing them to clock up hundreds of authorial credits a year): besides noting that he himself seems to be considering his field not being science, I wonder how many times a connector not perfectly plugged (or a similar low-level issue) could waste months of his productive time. The very question, only implicitly raised by this article, is: is he better than his colleagues? Do we really need to rank everybody at the level of one list with no equals?
Having watched senior academics being automatically named as co-authors, even if they had no involvement with either the research or writing the paper on projects I'd had a direct input to, with the First Author being told to remove acknowledgements for myself and others by said senior academics as "it dilutes the value" (to them), I too doubt the numbers.
Listing a case study of an academic who publishes 1-2 papers per day at the sacrifice of work-life balance - I am not sure whether this example is supposed to be a role model (i.e., what to do) or a negative role model (i.e., what not to do). I was once in a session where an academic who had excellent student feedback was telling the audience how he spent almost 24/7 handling student questions (even on weekends and in the middle of the night). And when asked about time for research and work-life balance, his answer was that he was at the stage of his career where these were not important to him. Once again, not sure whether that was a positive or negative role model for academics for student engagement and feedback.... Strange how some of these examples are selected.
Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction - You couldn't make it up
This is prolific, but can it be possible? Does the Prof pay for his papers ? BC here in Nigeria you pay much to get your papers published.
From time to time such 'busy bees' pop up in the metrics. Usually it later turns out that the content of the papers is either faked or such persons press everyone in their surrounding to put him (rarely her) on the authors list. Anyway, even mere correction reading of the manuscripts would probably take more time, so something seems to be flawed.
As an expert in gambling studies this professor probably knows all about the ill effects of gaming (the system) as well as the obsession with high scores and other addictive cues of the (neoliberal) machine. Well done mate. You are the workaholic hero celebrated by the likes of this rag and its dehumanising ideology. What an example you set, not.
I have published several articles with professor Griffiths. He contributed in large part to all of them. If he is guilty of anything it is underestimating how many hours he works in an average week. Mark has a very serious and constantly painful spinal injury that means he writes constantly at home to take his mind off the pain. Those writing childish and unprofessional, anti-academic, jealous nonsense in this comments section are not to be totally blamed for their ignorance about that. Because he doesn't tell people. The man is a hero and role model to many. Is he a workaholic? I think he would beat most folk in a debate on that question. He prefers work over more painkillers.
The reference to health-related issues, which everyone I hope will have a great deal of empathy for and which was not mentioned in the article, is not a convincing defence of the working practices and habits illustrated by the article itself (to which the professor must have consented). It does not address the substantive concerns raised by most posts (some tongue-in-cheek, I grant you that). This has nothing to do with jealousy or childishness but is an expression of annoyance, concern and exasperation felt by many academics for how this article (and similar articles in THE) celebrates excessive publication and workloads by senior academics as well as their use of junior academics (especially PhD students); irrespective of whether this is true for Prof Griffith personally. It also generalises one publication model across disciplines; that of the professors' field, where multiple co-authorships and teamwork seems to be common; where papers that would be judged as a mere extended abstract/lab report in other disciplines seem to count as a full article etc. It also normalises quantity as a measure of success and good scholarship in academia. The article suggests that it is perfectly normal (or even desirable) to publish and possible to substantively contribute to that many peer reviewed articles. Continuously working 50-60 hours is not healthy for any person, with or without a medical condition. It should not be celebrated but pitied really. Whether you like it or not, by authorising this piece Prof Griffith has inadvertently become the poster boy of everything that is wrong and toxic about today's UK academia. If you go public like that, you need to live with the consequences of a backlash, even if it seems childish to you. Again, all this has nothing to do with the medical problems that Prof Griffith is facing and for which I wish him all the best.
Professor Griffiths has been awarded the title and promotion "Distinguished Professor" by the Nottingham Trent University in no small part, but by no means entirely, for his prolific output. Whatever many of us may think about the toxic nature of the Managerialist University and its promotion and facilitation by the THE, he has done nothing that warrants the personal attacks and ignorant innuendos in these comments. He has made the choice to carve out his career within the university that has employed him for decades. Mark does not have to tell journalists about his medical condition. I have no doubt he will be put out that I have let the cat out of the bag about that here. He might well be the poster boy for metrics we don't approve of. What you don't know is that he regularly sticks his neck on the line to defend more "junior" colleagues who have suffered injustices at the hands of others. But the university will not put him up on a poster for that will it? What you dislike about his output - the degree of it - also represents, article by article, a published record of his support of so many colleagues and other academics (but not you personally of course). I can't go into detail here but I know of at least a dozen cases where he has saved others from demotion by supporting them through the peer review process and enabling them to fulfil their potential in ticking the boxes required by bone head bot managerialists. He is not the enemy you think. Real life is far mote complex than an article in THE about a real person.
Exploiting our PhD students, are we?
Toxic jealousy by the ignorant, unfortunately fuelled in the comments on this THE article by many of those on the receiving end of the bone headed target bots of the #CultOfManagerialism . What those bullied and troll bullying bitter folk don't see is many of Mark's articles are evidence of his untrumpeted help to such downtrodden academics by assisting them in hitting the publication targets imposed on them by managers who can't wrote, can't research, can't bring in research funding outside the university and can't even manage. If that is exploiting others then it is the kind of exploitation that coined the ancient philosophical question: "If you can't be exploited, what use are you?"
A simple question are the papers of any significant academic quality?? Yes they get published but what is the quality of the Journals he is publishing in ??? If they are 4* journals then the guy is a genius. If they are 1* then really they have little academic impact. Since he ended up at Nottingham Trent then may I politely suggest they are not that high a quality. One or two high quality papers per year is worth much more than 30 low quality ones. Given the time he spends on each paper then it seems to be clear he is concentrating on low quality stuff and or exploiting the work of his PhD students.
The question of worth or quality in any paper is not something that can readily be scientifically measured - unless we are taking about a bombshell breakthrough - because there may be important information in them that simply does not register with most people as important, either because they don't understand its significance or are not interested in it. Academics are increasingly promoted in the new managerialist run universities for reaching the moving targets imposed on them by bullying idiot managers who know no better. Mark has been rewarded by his university and is paid a far-far higher, plus retainer, salary at NTU than most professors get at Oxbridge or elsewhere in the UK. Moreover the Pensions of the so-called new universities (NTU is one of those) have not been wrecked as have those in the redbrick league. So Griffiths has thrived at NTU. That is unless impoverished snobbery is your motivational force? Now that we live in the newly emerging age of "The Influencer" add to that the new algorisms devised by organisations such as "Academic Influence" that use metrics as one measure of influence, then accordingly Mark is doing what he is paid to do to get his institution ranked as an influential organisation. So what does it mean to be a top "influencer" is it to have your lower star rated work read by more people - simply because it is so prolific - or is it to have you higher rated papers read by fewer people because you have written so few of them? Mark Griffiths is doing his job. It's just that he is too good at it for some people's taste because they know they can never catch him up. Finally, I have never heard a single one of Mark's co-authors complain about exploitation. Not a single one and I know a fair few of the. Have you? Writing here that he is exploiting PhD students, well with no evidence of it that's simply the equivalent of bitter minded wishful thinking Trumpesque fake news - isn't it?
Very well said Mike Sutton!
"The question of worth or quality in any paper is not something that can readily be scientifically measured". This is why everyone has the right to express an opinion about the usefulness of works supported by taxpayers. I read one Mark's paper [1], picked randomly on its Wikipedia page [2]. Bad idea. I just wasted 30 minutes of my life to learn that "heterosexual women [rate] the body odor of homosexual men as being significantly more pleasant, sexy, and preferable than the body odor of heterosexual men". Wow! And more depressing is to read that " it may also be of interest to document olfactory function among other orientation groups such as bisexuals." Yes, why not. This is a good starting point for a nice bundle of future papers: studies about how heterosexual/homosexual/bisexual/asexual/transsexual men/women rate the body odor of heterosexual/homosexual/bisexual/asexual/transsexual men/women (this would afford material for 100 papers). Not enough? expand the work to genders: cisgender/transgender/genderqueer/bigender/agender/pangender/genderfluid/third-gender/cross-gender (not sure if the latter is clearly defined) men/women etc. if I am not mistaken, the combinatorics between sexual orientation, sex and gender, would produce 8100 papers. [1] doi:10.1007/s10508-006-9126-3 ( [2]
Does this guy occasionally sleep ? His GS account now reports 210 papers for 2020, that is one paper every 1.4 day. By just trying a little harder, he will certainly reach the Holy Grail: one paper every day. Next step: one paper every hour.
Even if all his teaching and the service connected to his post of a director of a research unit, whatever that means in Nottingham, amounts to only 10% of his working hours, this man cannot possibly spend more than 13 hrs on average working on a given manuscript (based on the numbers given in the article). Ridiculous. For 13 hrs of serious discussion of a manuscript, I expect to see my name in the acknowledgments, not on the first page. Something must have changed dramatically over the last few decades concerning the meaning of "an effort" in academia. Just the opinion of an ocasionally grumpy emeritus. W.S. Peters
I think Dr. Mike Sutton "drmikesutton_252472" acts in the same way than Mark Griffiths. That is the reason he defends Griffiths' work. All that kind of scientist produces papers with a lack of ethics and when they are unmasked, they attack sayin "you are jealous" "you are childish" "we dont exploite ous etudents, because they do not quarrell". This only shows the lack of ethics among those "very important researchers" and the crisis of science that focus on quantity and rejects quality. So disgusting.
How many self-citations does he have?