One newly published brain research paper is obviously a joke intended for the small community of scientists who use FMRI equipment. And it’s a good example of how a joke meant for insiders can be difficult or impossible (or at least take hours and hours of excited exposition) to explain to anyone else.
If you are not of that community, and you have days or weeks to devote to listening to someone’s explanation of why this joke might be funny, ask an fMRI researcher to explain this to you:
“Journal Impact Factor Shapes Scientists’ Reward Signal in the Prospect of Publication,” Frieder Michel Paulus, Lena Rademacher, Theo Alexander Jose Schäfer, Laura Müller-Pinzler, Sören Krach [pictured here], PLoS ONE, November 10, 201510(11): e0142537. (Thanks to Chris Gunter for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the University of Lübeck,, Germany, write:
“The incentive structure of a scientist’s life is increasingly mimicking economic principles. While intensely criticized, the journal impact factor (JIF) has taken a role as the new currency for scientists. Successful goal-directed behavior in academia thus requires knowledge about the JIF. Using functional neuroimaging we examined how the JIF, as a powerful incentive in academia, has shaped the behavior of scientists and the reward signal in the striatum. We demonstrate that the reward signal in the nucleus accumbens increases with higher JIF during the anticipation of a publication and found a positive correlation with the personal publication record (pJIF) supporting the notion that scientists have incorporated the predominant reward principle of the scientific community in their reward system.”
Here’s further severely deadpan detail from the study: