Misleading metrics

CORRESPONDENCE

Metrics: don’t dismiss journals with a low impact factor

JAY M. FITZSIMMONS & JEFFREY H. SKEVINGTON

Jevin West argues that the metric used to assess scientists’ impact affects their publishing behaviour ( Nature 465, 870–872; 2010 ) — this is also true of journals.

Our society’s journal, The Canadian Field-Naturalist, has the lowest and third-lowest impact factor of any journal in its two categories, according to Thomson Reuters’ 2008 Journal Citation Reports. This is an embarrassing position for one of North America’s oldest ecological journals.

We have debated whether we should eliminate our ‘Notes’ section, which comprises short descriptions of natural history that are often single observations of previously undocumented animal behaviour. ‘Notes’ adversely affect our impact factor because they contribute as much to the denominator of the impact-factor equation as full articles, but are cited far less frequently.

To enhance the quality of our journal, we are improving its dissemination (by going online), timeliness (through a new editorial management system) and content (by refocusing its aim and scope). But we are not prepared to sacrifice valid scientific content just to improve a metric, however influential that metric may be. ‘Notes’ will stay in the journal.

Researchers do not want their worth to be assessed on the basis of a single metric because metrics can be misleading and manipulated ( Nature 465, 860–862; 2010). The same logic applies to journals.

SOURCE: Nature (2010)

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About sociogenomics

I study behaviour and evolution. This space is about sharing with others notable (and sometimes unexpected) findings that relate to my own scientific interests and research.
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