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Contact: Emma Dickinson
edickinson@bmj.com
44-020-738-36529
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Are journal rankings distorting science?

This week's BMJ raises concerns over whether journal rankings (known as impact factors) are distorting publishing and science.

The impact factor is a measure of the citations to papers in scientific journals. It was developed as a simple measure of quality and has become a proxy for the importance of a journal to its field.

But a report by the BMJ this week warns that the popularity of this ranking is distorting the fundamental character of journals, forcing them to focus more and more on citations and less on readers.

Concerns include the fact that a bad paper may be cited because of its infamous errors and that a journal's rank has no bearing on the quality of individual papers it publishes. But more worrying is the trend towards using impact factors to guide decisions on research funding. This has been particularly noticeable in the UK, where universities now prioritise scientific fields that produce research published in the highest impact factor journals, causing substantial damage to the clinical research base.

In an accompanying article, two researchers discuss whether impact factors should be ditched.

Gareth Williams of Bristol University believes that the academic community should consign the impact factor to the dustbin. He sees the measure as fatally flawed and highly damaging to the academic community.

"The impact factor is a pointless waste of time, energy, and money, and a powerful driver of perverse behaviours in people who should know better," he writes. "It should be killed off, and the sooner the better."

But Richard Hobbs of Birmingham University thinks that rather than just discarding impact factors we should consider solutions to the problems. For example, extending the citation surveillance period, applying weightings to adjust for the average number of references across journals, or scoring journals on only their most important papers.

It's easy to criticise bibliometrics, but we should attempt to refine them and debate in parallel how we can track academic careers and encourage fewer, but better studies that affect the wider community, he concludes.
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Interesting....

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The impact factor is a measure of the citations to papers in scientific journals. It was developed as a simple measure of quality and has become a proxy for the importance of a journal to its field.

....and that a journal's rank has no bearing on the quality of individual papers it publishes....

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It sounds like quite a misguided measurement of research quality. Perhaps it is the individual investigators/authors and their publications that should be ranked by impact factor, rather than the journals.

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But a report by the BMJ this week warns that the popularity of this ranking is distorting the fundamental character of journals, forcing them to focus more and more on citations and less on readers.

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Why are they not focusing on the science?

Do you anticipate any stocks that might be affected by this?

Thanks for sharing this.
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I'm hoping come the work week that others who are far more connected than I will weigh in on your questions.

In the meantime, I was rather abit un-nerved by this.

Well, not enough to wreck my day or anything.
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I know of journals that have increased the # of solicited review articles it publishes, just as a way to increase the citation #'s (reviews tend to be cited more). The journals themselves keep track of both citations and online "hits" or downloads of specific articles.
Of course more people read the bigger journals, and are more likely to cite articles from them, so there is an inherent bias. That being said, it is considerably more rigorous an ordeal to be published in a major journal, so the product is often better for the process.
The big problem I see is, in hiring junior faculty, publication in these high impact journals is used as a proxy for quality of research, with often no consideration of the development of ideas or subject matter.
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