Astronomy

Why don't astronomers publish observations?

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Science  02 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6379, pp. 1005-1006
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6379.1005-c

The La Silla Observatory in Chile, an ESO facility

PHOTO: ESO/JOSÉ FRANCISCO SALGADO, CC BY 4.0

Observing time on top astronomical telescopes is heavily oversubscribed and allocated through a competitive proposal process, but 30 to 50% of observations never produce a peer-reviewed paper. Patat et al. contacted principal investigators on proposals executed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) between 2006 and 2013 that did not result in publication. They found several recurrent issues, such as poor observing weather, lack of investigator resources for analysis, or personnel having left research. By comparing publication rates over time, they showed that 50% of publications occur within 3.5 years of the observations, but it takes 10 years for that fraction to reach 95%. Astronomers are struggling to keep up with the flow of data.

Messenger 170, 51 (2017).

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