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A Scientist and the Web


Let’s get rid of Journal Rankings (and Journals)

I got the following today from F1000 – a company that I know reasonably well and get on fine with those people I have met including Vitek Tracz for whom I have a very high regard. But I am not in favour of this…

On Wed, Oct 5, 2011 at 12:06 PM, <> wrote:

Dear Peter,

I’m excited to let you know that we at Faculty of 1000 have launched the beta version of our new F1000 Journal Rankings.

The rankings enable researchers to see where the best research is being published, as judged by the F1000 Faculty. Each month F1000 will publish current rankings based on evaluations of research papers received in the previous 12 months. Each year we will make available historical rankings, based on a calendar year’s worth of articles, for easy comparison with the Journal Impact Factor.

Our press release, including technical details of how the rankings are calculated, can be viewed here:

The journal rankings themselves are here:

Please contact me with any queries or comments.

So I wrote:

I think ranking journals is outdated and pernicious. It leads to glory-oriented branding, editorial coziness, arbitrary office-made decisions and distorts scientific publishing.

I approve of per-article metrics done by humans reading the papers. If so, publish the articles.

I would also note that a very high proportion of your journals are closed access – it would be useful to indicate which journals are open, as 99.99+% of the human race can only read

I also commented that publishing rankings to 4 significant figures when the raw data could vary by 20% was ridiculous and unscientific.

I now think conventional journals per se are outdated. There are, perhaps, a few places where journals make sense but most are vehicles for commercial (and commercial-thinking non-profit) companies to promote competition with other commercial companies. The decisions on what a journals is, what’s in it, why it exists, what its policy is, are increasingly undemocratic and distorting. There is also publisher-think where even well-intentioned publishers get sucked into the reader-doesn’t-matter and we-don’t-care-about-the science syndromes.

That’s one reason for wishing to see journal rankings abolished. But while we have journals, there are others. The main is that it trivializes the role of individual articles against the collective standing of the journal. *Where* you publish is more important than *what* you publish. I accept that some of this is probably inevitable while Planck’s Law for editors still operates [1]. However the increasing pressure of commercial greed on scientific publishing distorts editorial judgments or even bypasses them completely. If we want changes in publishing, do we wish to delegate our decisions to the marketing departments of commercial companies? (And I think the F1000 impact factor is a clear indication of marketing triumphing).

Journal impact factors will never be morally or ethically acceptable as long as the primary motivation for journals is commercial. And even without that it’s a seriously flawed concept.

So I am sorry to write this about F1000 as they actually do more than most to try to assess science. But this is retrograde.


[1] Science progresses one funeral at a time

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