Senior staff at leading journals want to end inappropriate use of the impact factor. The tide is turning against the impact factor – one of publishing’s most contentious metrics – and its outsized impact on science.
Roughly the ‘impact factor’ is a score for a journal measuring the number of times its papers are cited by subsequent research. It is common, and encouraged by many journals, for any paper to be judged by the impact factor of the journal that publishes it. But as a journal’s score is an average, it says little about the quality of any individual piece of research. The impact factor is a broad-brush indicator of a journal’s output. Although better journals boast higher scores, their claim cannot be uphold for each paper published. About 75% of Nature and Science articles were cited below the very high impact factor of both journals due to some highly cited papers. So while they publish many outstanding papers, they do not publish only outstanding papers. What is more, citation is sometimes, but not always, linked to quality.
Reputations of prestigious journals – chiefly Nature, Cell and Science – are only partly warranted. Therefore, senior staff at leading journals made an appeal to publishers to downplay the impact factor in favour of a metric that captures the range of citations that a journal’s articles attract. Prestigious journals are not the only publishers of outstanding research. There is an alternative way, through the new breed of Open Access journals that are free for anybody to read, and have no expensive subscriptions to promote. Born on the web, they can accept all papers that meet quality standards, with no artificial caps. Many are edited by working scientists, who can assess the worth of papers without regard for citations.
Beat it, impact factor! Publishing elite turns against controversial metric (Ewen Callaway, Nature News, 12 July 2016)
How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science (Randy Schekman, The Guardian, 9 December 2013)
- Wetenschappelijke topbladen blazen minder hoog van de toren (Martijn van Calmthout, de Volkskrant, 12 juli 2016)
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