Impact Factor Category

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Nobel Laureate Participates in a Reddit Ask Me Anything

Randy Schekman, a co-recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, participated in an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on Reddit this weekend. Schekman, a Cell Biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, was jointly awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in understanding the transport mechanisms involved in the export of proteins from cells. Last week, he authored an editorial in the Guardian that accused the practices of journals like Cell, Nature, and Science of distorting science and has been the subject of both criticism and praise in the scholarly publishing world.

In his editorial, Schekman specifically calls out Cell, Nature, and Science (C/N/S) who are among the most prestigious journals in the biological and medical sciences.

“These journals aggressively curate their brands, in ways more conducive to selling subscriptions than to stimulating the most important research. Like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags or suits, they know scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept.” [Source]

From the Reddit AMA, the focus of Schekman’s criticism of C/N/S is the artificial restriction of publishing only the papers that fit in the print run of these journals. “Why should we have such a limitation in the 21st century?” he asks. Schekman marks this practice as a distinguishing characteristic of a “luxury” journal as well as the use of a professional editorial staff rather than working scientists in the field. This combination of management priorities, Schekman argues, distorts scientific discourse by emphasizing fashionable topics at the expense of good science.

Schekman is a supporter of the open access movement and is the Editor-in-Chief of eLife, an open access journal of life sciences papers. His boycott of C/N/S has drawn criticism for his eLife affiliation and his previous 46 publications in these journals.  [Read the AMA here]

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Standards and Recommended Practices for Altmetrics

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) recently announced a community-based, two-year project to develop standards and recommended practices for altmetrics. Altmetrics uses web traffic, social media, reference managers, and other online tools to provide a broader picture of an author’s scholarly impact than traditional, journal-level metrics provide. Not limited to research articles, altmetrics tracks the sharing and discussions of datasets, computer code, blog posts, slide decks, and other online modes of scholarly communication. Examples of altmetrics include Impact Story and Altmetric for Scopus. Altmetrics has drawn controversy, leaving skeptics concerned about its potential for abuse, such as artificially gaming page views, downloads, and social media sharing. In the announcement of this project, Todd Carpenter, NISO’s Executive Director, states: “The creation of altmetrics standards and best practices will facilitate the community trust in altmetrics, which will be a requirement for any broad-based acceptance, and will ensure that these altmetrics can be accurately compared and exchanged across publishers and platforms.” The creation and publication of altmetrics standards will take place over the next two years. Read the announcement.

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Journals’ Ranking System Roils Research

An article in the Wall Street Journal reports on the increasing practice of journals and authors to find ways to play the system that ranks scholarly publications.  At issue, this time, were two papers published by The Scientific World Journal which excessively cited the journal Cell Transplantation.  The Scientific World Journal retracted both articles, however Thomson Reuters, which publishes the impact factors, suspended both journals for two years, which is a serious “blow to the researchers who publish” in them. “The disapproval isn’t about the metric itself but about its misuse,” says Jim Testa, a vice president of editorial development and publisher relations at Thomson Reuters.

Phil Davis, a publishing consultant, who is quoted in the WSJ article and who researches citation gaming, has studied Cell Transplantation’s citation patterns and noted in an April blog entry that “a review article published in another journal, Medical Science Monitor, had cited a total of 490 articles in the field, of which 445 were articles that had appeared in Cell Transplantation alone, in 2008 and 2009. Both those years were used to compute the 2010 impact factor for Cell Transplantation, and those citations apparently had an effect: the journal’s IF rose from 5.126 in 2009 to 6.204 in 2010, a jump of 21%.”

article by Naik, Gautam. Wall Street Journal (Online) [New York, N.Y] 24 Aug 2012