A number of years ago when I was working as a government contractor, I talked to a professor at a local university about the possibility of collaborating on a research project. He listened with interest to my idea and then asked one question, “What do you think would be the possibility of generating a publication out of this project?” We wanted a problem solved. What he wanted was a publication. His priorities were understandable: he was a young professor working to get tenure and felt that his list of publications was scanty. The more publications on a resume the better. But is this true? I don’t think so. A researcher should aim for high quality publications. The more of these the better. But generating publications simply to pad a resume will be counterproductive in the long run.
For example, consider H. C. Brown, who won 1979 Nobel Prize for his work on boron reagents in organic chemistry. Brown may have been the most prolific scientific publisher of the 20th Century. He always seemed to have articles coming out. But his detractors (and there were quite a few) said that he published the same paper over and over, with minor changes in ligand or substrate. Critics said he would have done better to have published half as many papers, longer and more considered rather than so many bits and pieces of preliminary results.
On the other hand there is R. B. Woodward, who published relatively few papers compared to Brown, but what papers! The list of authors on his great paper on the synthesis of vitamin B12 was almost as long as some communications. On a personal level Woodward may have had detractors, but I’ve never heard of anyone attack his scientific prowess. The main controversy seems to be about whether he deserved one Nobel Prize or two.
I think we can all agree that results that are really new and important ought to be published as soon as possible, particularly if other researchers are working in the same area. Otherwise a full paper, carefully worked out and detailed, should be the goal. Publication just for the sake of a head count will eventually gain a researcher a reputation that he does not want. As a grad student I was reluctant to publish one part of my research because I felt our argument in favor of a novel mechanism was weak and circumstantial and there were other mechanisms which were more likely though less novel. We needed to do more work. My adviser disagreed, saying “I don’t think you realize just what can be published.” We delayed writing the paper until one more experiment was performed. The result showed that our favored mechanism was untenable. A good thing we held off. Better no publication than a weak one.