Ignorance is dangerous when it comes to Journal Impact Factor

A Twitt by someone who appears to be a postdoc brought me up short.

@mbeisen @neuromusic @drisis @devinberg Does this mean I an screwed since I have NO FREAKING CLUE what the IF are of journals I publish in?!


A followup from @mrhunsaker wasn't much better.

@drisis @mbeisen @neuromusic @devinberg I agree that high IF is demanded. I'm constantly asked to find a Higher Impact co-author & I refuse

What this even means I do not know*. A "Higher Impact co-author"? What? Maybe this means collaborate with someone doing something that is going to get your own work into a higher IF journal? Anyway....

The main point here is that no matter your position on the Journal Impact Factor, no matter the subfield of biomedical science in which you reside, no matter the nature of your questions, models and data...it is absolutely not okay to not understand the implications of the IF. Particularly by the time you are a postdoc.

You absolutely need to understand the IF of journals you publish in, people in your subfield publish in and that people who will be judging you publish in. You need to understand the range, what represents a bit of a stretch for your work, what is your bread-and-butter zone and what is a dump journal.

If your mentors and fellow (more senior) trainees are not bringing you up to speed on this stuff they are committing mentoring malpractice.

*UPDATE: apparently this person meant for text book chapters and review articles that editors were suggesting a more senior person should be involved. Different issue....but the phrasing as "higher impact" co-author is disturbing.

2 responses so far

  • I would read this interaction with suspicion.

  • The Other Dave says:

    Dude, you are at least a decade behind in your thinking. This is how it is:

    1) It is often useful to know whether a scientist is producing useful science.
    2) We are all too lazy or ignorant to actually read their shit and judge for themselves. So we use proxies...

    a) funding
    b) impact factor of journals they publish in

    But funding rates suck such that everyone is struggling, and the preponderance of Big Science projects and other weirdness makes money not necessarily equal to productivity, so people don't trust funding so much anymore. In fact, nowadays you often hear the phrases 'S/he's doing really good science despite a lack of funding' or 'His stuff isn't very exciting, but he's well funded.' Those are signs that funding and scientific productivity are becoming disconnected in people's minds.

    Indexing tools are much better now. It's super easy for Google Scholar to calculate impact factors for individual scientists, and several variations (H index, i10) are in use. So the IF of journals is increasingly irrelevant.

    There is less and less need to know or care about journal impact factors. They are a blip in the history of science publishing. People should focus on doing good science and sharing the results with the appropriate bunch of colleagues. It was like that in 1750, it'll be like that in 2050.

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