We have been talking about the scientific journal ecosphere in the context of Michael Eisen's push to get more biomedical scientists to use pre-print servers to publicize their work prior to publication in a traditional journal. This push, recently aided and abetted by Leslie Vosshall, exposes a deep divide in the understanding of the broad scope of science. It is my view that part of the reason the elite (both are HHMI funded investigators, eliteness gets no better in the US) have trouble understanding the points made by us riffraff is related to the fact they don't understand the following. The main issue is that the elite are working at the first tier level. Second tier is a function not of their science but of the competition for limited resources. Any farther down the chain and it is all the same to them - they really have no understanding of how life works for those who operate in the Tiers below.
This post originally appeared on the blog 11 Feb 2013.
Occasionally during the review of careers or grant applications you will see dismissive comments on the journals in which someone has published their work. This is not news to you. Terms like "low-impact journals" are wonderfully imprecise and yet deliciously mean. Yes, it reflects the fact that the reviewer himself couldn't be bothered to actually review the science IN those paper, nor to acquaint himself with the notorious skew of real world impact that exists within and across journals.
More hilarious to me is the use of the word "tier". As in "The work from the prior interval of support was mostly published in second tier journals...".
It is almost always second tier that is used.
But this is never correct in my experience.
If we're talking Impact Factor (and these people are, believe it) then there is a "first" tier of journals populated by Cell, Nature and Science.
In the Neurosciences, the next tier is a place (IF in the teens) in which Nature Neuroscience and Neuron dominate. No question. THIS is the "second tier".
A jump down to the IF 12 or so of PNAS most definitely represents a different "tier" if you are going to talk about meaningful differences/similarities in IF.
Then we step down to the circa IF 7-8 range populated by J Neuroscience, Neuropsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. Demonstrably fourth tier.
So for the most part when people are talking about "second tier journals" they are probably down at the FIFTH tier- 4-6 IF in my estimation.
I also argue that the run of the mill society level journals extend below this fifth tier to a "the rest of the pack" zone in which there is a meaningful perception difference from the fifth tier. So.... Six tiers.
Then we have the paper-bagger dump journals. Demonstrably a seventh tier. (And seven is such a nice number isn't it?)
So there you have it. If you* are going to use "tier" to sneer at the journals in which someone publishes, for goodness sake do it right, will ya?
*Of course it is people** who publish frequently in the third and fourth tier and only rarely in second tier, that use "second tier journal" to refer to what is in the fifth or sixth tier of IFs. Always.
**For those rare few that publish extensively in the first tier, hey, you feel free to describe all the rest as "second tier". Go nuts.