Sunday, July 12, 2020

Journals performance, individual articles, assessment and ranking, and researchers

Sign here. Image: CC-BY-SA.
Okay, there it is: journals performance, individual articles, assessment and ranking, and researchers. It has it all. Yes, it is journal impact factor season.

Most scholars know now when and when not to use the impact factor. But old habits die slowly and the journals impact factor (JIF or IF) is still used a lot to rank journals, rank universities, rank articles, rank researchers.

I signed DORA, but that does not mean I do not know that the (change year over year of the) IF hints at how a journal is doing. Yes, an median is better than an average. A citation count distribution is even better. After all, a stellar IF still means that tens of percent points of the articles in the same period are not or just once cited.

One striking voice was angry the Journal of Cheminformatics tweeted its new IF. We did not do so without internal discussion and deliberation. Readers of the journal know we do not mention the IF on our front page (as many journals) do. We are working on displaying the citation distribution on a subpage of the website. And we want authors to submit to our journal because we value Open Science and have a reviewer that value that too. We want articles in our journal to be easily reproduced.

But I know reality. I know many researchers are still expected to report IFs along with their articles. I am one of them (in the past 8 years, articles in a journal with IF>5 were "better"). I've been objecting against it for many years, and fortunately there is a path away from them in The Netherlands. If you must rank articles and researchers, then rank them according to their own work, and not based on the work of others. So, I decided that I had no objection against tweeting the J. Cheminform. IF.

Interestingly, if you really want to push this, you should also not mention journal names in your publication list. Let the scholars ranting against the IF but still cheering a Nature, Cell, Science (etc) article rethink their reasoning.

So, what should we do? How should we move forward. Of course I have some ideas about this. Just (re)read my blog. Progress is slow. But I ask everyone who rants about the IF to not just propose better solutions, but actively disseminate them. Implement that solutions and get other people to use it. For example, send your journal an open Letter to the Editor to make a clear statement against the use of IF as a reason to publish in that journal.

If that is too much for you, at least sign DORA and ask your peers to do so too.

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