Scientific insurgents say 'Journal Impact Factors' distort science
"An ad hoc coalition of unlikely insurgents -- scientists, journal editors and publishers, scholarly societies, and research funders across many scientific disciplines -- today posted an international declaration calling on the world scientific community to eliminate the role of the journal impact factor (JIF) in evaluating research for funding, hiring, promotion, or institutional effectiveness. The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, or DORA, was framed by a group of journal editors, publishers, and others convened by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) last December in San Francisco, during the Society's Annual Meeting. The San Francisco group agreed that the JIF, which ranks scholarly journals by the average number of citations their articles attract in a set period, has become an obsession in world science. Impact factors warp the way that research is conducted, reported, and funded. Over five months of discussion, the San Francisco declaration group moved from an 'insurrection,' in the words of one publisher, against the use of the prominent two-year JIF to a wider reconsideration of scientific assessment. The DORA statement posted today makes 18 recommendations for change in the scientific culture at all levels -- individual scientists, publishers, institutions, funding agencies, and the bibliometric services themselves -- to reduce the dominant role of the JIF in evaluating research and researchers and instead to focus on the content of primary research papers, regardless of publication venue. Today's declaration is timed to coincide with editorials in scientific journals around the world including an endorsement of DORA by Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief of ScienceMagazine in the journal's May 17th issue. Other editors signing DORA represent Journal of Cell Biology (JCB), Traffic,Genetics, eLife, Journal of Cell Science, Aging Cell, Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC), BioArchitecture, The EMBO Journal, Journal of Cell Science, Journal of Surfactants & Detergents, Cell Structure & Functions (Japan), Lipids, Genes,Journal of the Electrochemical Society, and Development. Along with ASCB, organizations signing DORA include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the British Society for Cell Biology, the Wellcome Trust, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, EMBO, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, the Association for Psychological Science, the Electromechanical Society, the European Sociology Association, the European Mathematical Society, the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, the Company of Biologists, the American Physiological Society, the Linguistic Society of America, the Genetics Society of America, the Burnet Institute (Australia), the National Center for Genomic Analysis (CNAG, Barcelona, Spain), and the Bionics Institute (Australia). A complete list of signatories to date is at http://www.ascb.org/SFdeclaration.html. Mark Patterson, Executive Director of eLife, points to the diverse list of DORA signers as evidence that concern about impact factors is not an Us vs. Them issue in scientific publishing. 'You've got the very old like Science and the very new like PeerJ or eLife. So you've got the old and the new, the non-profit and the for-profit, the open access and the subscription model. It's really a mix,' says Patterson. 'The issue cuts right across and not just publishers of all shapes but all the different constituencies involved in research assessment, all the way from individual researchers to the institutions that they work in or are funded by to the journals that they publish in.' ..."