Starting later this month, South Korean researchers will receive three million won (US$3,000) if they are leading authors of papers published in key journals.
The relevant journals will be chosen by a ten-member committee of government officials and researchers, and will probably include Nature, Science and Cell. Researchers will be rewarded if they are first or corresponding authors of a paper.
Similar practices are already widespread elsewhere. In China scientists can receive more than ten times this amount.
In Pakistan bonuses have dramatically increased the number of papers that researchers publish, and advocates say the money compensates for low academic wages.
Critics argue bonuses encourage scientific fraud and that rushing to produce as many papers as possible reduces the quality of research (see China must address the roots of scientific fraud). But others counter that the journal's peer review system remains independent so that the system only rewards good work.
An accompanying editorial in this week's Nature argues that nations should try to avoid such crude 'cash-per-paper' incentives, and tailor rewards to promote the ethical pursuit of scientific truth.