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Saturday, 17th March 2007

Are Journal Rankings Distorting Science?

Are Journal Rankings Distorting Science?

The impact factor is a measure of the citations to papers in scientific journals. It was developed as a simple measure of quality and has become a proxy for the importance of a journal to its field.

But a report by the BMJ this week warns that the popularity of this ranking is distorting the fundamental character of journals, forcing them to focus more and more on citations and less on readers.

Concerns include the fact that a bad paper may be cited because of its infamous errors and that a journal's rank has no bearing on the quality of individual papers it publishes. But more worrying is the trend towards using impact factors to guide decisions on research funding. This has been particularly noticeable in the UK, where universities now prioritise scientific fields that produce research published in the highest impact factor journals, causing substantial damage to the clinical research base.

In an accompanying article, two researchers discuss whether impact factors should be ditched.

Source: Science Daily
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Related BMJ articles were freely accessible as of 17 March 2007. May move behind subscription/pay wall.
+ How impact factors changed medical publishing—and science (PDF; 435 KB)
+ Should we ditch impact factors? Yes: Gareth Williams dean Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Bristol (PDF; 158 KB)
+ Should we ditch impact factors? No: Richard Hobbs, head of primary care, Department of Primary Care and General Practice, University of Birmingham (PDF; 158 KB)


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