JIF notes 2016

If it's late June, it must be time for the latest Journal Impact Factors to be announced. (Last year's notes are here.)

Nature Neuroscience is confirming its dominance over Neuron with upward and downward trends, respectively, widening the gap.

Biological Psychiatry continues to skyrocket, up to 11.2. All pretensions from Neuropsychopharmacology to keep pace are over, third straight year of declines for the ACNP journal lands it at 6.4. Looks like the 2011-2012 inflation was simply unsustainable for NPP. BP is getting it done though. No sign of a letup for the past 4 years. Nicely done BP and any of y'all who happen to have published there in the past half-decade.

I've been taking whacks at the Journal of Neuroscience all year so I almost feel like this is pile-on. But the long steady trend has dropped it below a 6, listed at 5.9 this year. Oy vey.

Looks like Addiction Biology has finally overreached with their JIF strategy. It jumped up to the 5.9 level 2012-2013 but couldn't sustain it- two consecutive years of declines lowers it to 4.5. Even worse, it has surrendered the top slot in the Substance Abuse category. As we know, this particular journal maintains an insanely long pre-print queue with some papers being assigned to print two whole calendar years after appearing online. Will anyone put up with this anymore, now that the JIF is declining and it isn't even the best-in-category anymore? I think this is not good for AB.

A number of journals in the JIF 4-6 category that I follow are holding steady over the past several years, that's good to see.

Probably the most striking observation is what appears to be a relatively consistent downward trend for JIF 2-4 journals that I watch. These were JIFs that have generally trended upward (slowly, slowly) from 2006 or so until the past couple of years. I assumed this was a reflection of more scientific articles being published and therefore more citations available. Perhaps this deflationary period is temporary. Or perhaps it reflects journals that I follow not keeping up with the times in terms of content?

As always, interested to hear what is going on with the journals in the fields you follow, folks. Have at it in the comments.

48 responses so far

  • Dr24 says:

    Given that you abhor the JIF - humping glam shaggers, what's the point of this? Why contribute by evaluating these journals this way?

  • Selerax says:

    Cerebral Cortex still rising to 8.7.

    Cerebral Cortex vs. J Neurosci looks like a good go-to example where JIFs are highly misleading. Does *anyone* submit to CC before J Neurosci?

  • MoBio says:

    Puzzling that Neuron declines while NN continues upward trend.

    In terms of papers I note both are essentially equivalent. I notice relatively more human cognition studies in Neuron over past few years but don't note if they are highly/notsohighly cited. Other than that the paper seem more or less equivalent. Many of same authors regularly publish in both so doubly puzzling.

    Any sense of why this might be?

  • Another Assistant Prof says:

    My perusal of the immunology and microbiology journals that I care about shows that the bread and butter standard society journals have tanked in the last 10 years. This also applies somewhat to PLOS Pathogens. PLOS Path is (or at least was) a demi-glam journal in my field, so I can't figure out why its JIF is on a downward trend. Overall, it seems like we're losing a lot of the field-specific respectable places to publish. I feel like these are being replaced by Nature Communications and Cell Reports, which is awful because these cost a fortune to publish, and the review process is horrible and never-ending.

  • Next Grant says:

    “the review process is horrible and never-ending”. The review process is horrible and never-ending because reviewers ask for experiments that most of the time are not necessary to support the claims. We are the reviewers, so this can be changed easily …if we want.

  • K99er says:

    "Probably the most striking observation is what appears to be a relatively consistent downward trend for JIF 2-4 journals that I watch."

    My theory is that the rise of journals like PLoS ONE and Scientific Reports will be sinking everything with IF<4.

  • Dave says:

    Journal that just requested tons of experimental revisions for our recent paper just dropped from 4.4 to 3.5!!!! That really changes things for us.

  • Selerax says:

    Nature Communications at 11.3.

    Remarkably calibrated to further kick down the specialty journals, without cannibalizing the Nature Somethings...

  • Dave says:

    Scientific Reports holding at 5.2. That's not bad.

  • WH says:

    I expected Scientific Reports to go the way of PLoS ONE - down in IF as more people publish there. However, I've heard many people talk as if the former is superior to the latter. To me, the two carry no functional difference, but apparently others may not share that opinion.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Why contribute by evaluating these journals this way?

    1) Because the prestige chase is still important, no matter what we might think about the impact it has on science, or as we would like reality to be.

    2) This is part of a long game to show how silly the JIF really is.

  • drugmonkey says:

    My theory is that the rise of journals like PLoS ONE and Scientific Reports will be sinking everything with IF<4.

    PLoS ONE has been on a continual downward trend itself. But I'm not sure I take your point. If PLoS ONE is increasing the overall number of papers it should be increasing citations, and if it is scooping up the "meh" pubs that used to go in JIF 2-4 range journals wouldn't this improve the latter's JIFs on average?

    Journal that just requested tons of experimental revisions for our recent paper just dropped from 4.4 to 3.5!!!! That really changes things for us.

    "Dear Editor, We would have made the investment but now that your journal impact factor has tanked we do not feel it is appropriate to do so. You should probably take it anyway as it is nearly guaranteed to raise your cites next year. "

  • drugmonkey says:

    Remarkably calibrated to further kick down the specialty journals, without cannibalizing the Nature Somethings...

    NPG certainly does seem to play the Game of JIFs better than other publishing outfits.....

  • Dave says:

    Funny DM, I actually sent the editor an email this morning to clarify the revisions and to insinuate that they might be a bit excessive for the journal. This was before I checked the IF. I certainly won't resubmit there now........not yet.

    You have to wonder what's going on when an IF drops 1 point down in that range. Been on a steady decline for 5 years too.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Interesting that Neuroimage and Human Brain Mapping both dropped a full point. HBM has been on a steady downward trajectory. Boredom setting in for fMRI?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Agree Dave. Usually the movement is slower at that range. Dropped review articles?

  • Ben says:

    @Selerax I'm taking some snarky pleasure in seeing that Cerebral Cortex is rising while Journal of Neuroscience is falling. I used to aim my best papers at JN but they've stopped publishing many papers in my area (neurophysiology of memory). They've always been difficult reviews with multiple rounds of revision, but it was worth it when they were the top journal in the field. Now their IF is dropping like a rock and the reviews are still just as difficult as ever. My last straw was having a paper rejected (without the option for revision), which we then edited a little, added a couple additional analyses and submitted to Cerebral Cortex. Just got accepted. From now on, I'll submit to Cerebral Cortex before JN.

  • Dave says:

    I think it's a content issue. It's an old journal that perhaps has relied on its historical reputation for too long. Hasn't kept pace with current trends in the field.

  • dr24 says:

    I still don't get it. You're explicitly endorsing making journal decisions based on a metric you think is bullshit.

  • Grumble says:

    "Does *anyone* submit to CC before J Neurosci?"

    Well, now they will start. Just like Ben.

    "Any sense of why this might be? [higher JIF for NN than Neuron]"

    My sense is that the JIF metric is arbitrary. It measures what it measures, which is only a rough estimate of how prestigious a journal is perceived to be. In other words, you can get a JIF of 4 significant digits, but really you'd be just as well informed if there were only three or four possible JIF values. Going from 3 to 2 or vice versa on a whole number scale from 1 to 4 is meaningful. Going from 6.375 to 8.461 on the current JIF scale is not.

  • drugmonkey says:

    dr24- I explicitly endorse all kinds of career related behavior that I wish was not necessary. So what? People who give advice based on how they want the world to be, instead of how it is, are giving bad advice.

    There is no explicit advice in this post, however. Where do you see this?

  • neuroecology says:

    It is interesting to compare these to their eigenfactor/article influence score (eg http://www.eigenfactor.org/projects/journalRank/rankings.php?bsearch=Scientific+Reports&searchby=journal&orderby=eigenfactor):

    J Neurosci - EF 0.383, AI 2.9
    Bio Psych - EF 0.079, AI 3.6
    Nature Neuro - EF 0.155, AI 8.8
    Neuron - EF 0.223, AI 8.7
    PLoS One - EF 1.533, AI 1.2
    Scientific Reports - 0.115, AI 2.1

  • dr24 says:

    Whatever. I suck at reading. Advice too.

  • Steve G says:

    Where do you get this all-in-one Impact Factor info?

  • Laurent says:

    Plant Disease: IF15 of 3.19
    European Journal of Agronomy: IF15 of 3.18
    Phytopathology: IF15 of 3.01
    Agricultural Systems: IF15 of 2.86
    Pest Management Science: IF15 of 2.81
    Plant Pathology: IF15 of 2.38
    Crop Protection: IF15 of 1.65
    Crop Science: IF15 of 1.55
    European Journal of Plant Pathology: IF15 of 1.49

    Looks like the pattern scale doesn't involve too much trouble worth to me... 🙂

  • WH says:

    In biochemistry, JBC seems to be doing the same thing as J Neuroscience, but worse. JBC has dropped from 7.4 to 4.3 since 2000 (compared to 8.5 to 5.9 for JN).

    I agree with K99er- I think the mega-journals will sink lower-tier journals. For someone in biochemistry, is it really worth it to fight to get into JBC, when the low-hanging fruit of PLoS ONE and Scientific Reports are out there?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Why is that interesting neuroecology? Those seem like the usual bullshittio of "my metric makes the things I feel are important come up on top" to me.

  • Mike_F says:

    JBC is an informative indicator of where J Neurosci is headed, especially since the editorial leadership on both journals has taken this strategy to face the problem - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJD5AYx035g

  • MoBio says:

    @WH:
    I 'believe' (FWIW) JBC papers.

    PLOSONE not so much though there are those hidden gems.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    @WH: In my neck of the woods, the drop in JBC's IF has mainly served to convince people not to take journal IF's so seriously. I haven't noticed any decline in its perceived prestige level.

    Also, what MolBio said.

  • Grumble says:

    Neuroscientists have become wankers.

    That is the only possible explanation for why Biological Psychiatry's JIF has gone way up while JN's has gone down.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Neuroscientists have become wankers.

    In the sense of fetish level refinement of self-stimulatory behavior that is of minimal impact on anyone else?

  • Insect Biologist says:

    I agree with MoBio and AL regarding JBC. Despite the rather dramatic drop in IF, in my world, it is still considered a very respectable journal.

    I'm surprised that the IF for the top insect journal (Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) has increased slightly over the last five years, from 3.2 to 3.8. My most recent trainees have had a strong preference for publishing in Plos One and Scientific Reports, simply because those journals have had a higher IF than IBMB. I don't think that's a good reason, but I've been accommodating to their wishes because these trainees have plans to return to their country of origin, and impact factors are ridiculously important there. As the reputation of Plos One declines along with its IF, I wonder if the trainees regret their decisions. And I wonder if I should have overruled them and submitted to the top insect journal instead.

  • Grumble says:

    DM: Partly that sense, yes.

    Partly in the sense of doing something in a self-congratulatory, self-satisfying way with no intent (or, maybe, ability) to produce something serious and meaningful.

  • Grumble says:

    Why do I think that? Because JN papers (at least my favorite ones) are long, detailed and convincing. Serious work you can usually trust. (OK, there are always exceptions - this is my general perception based on 25+ years in the business).

    Biol Psych? Pfft. Lightweight fluff, half-assed hypotheses, underwhelming experiments.

  • Dave says:

    It's funny that now that some traditional journals are declining in the IF, more people are willing to write off the IF as a metric, instead talking about reputation and perceived quality. JBC is a classic example of this.

  • jmz4 says:

    @Dave
    Whichever metric or standard that allows you to place yourself nearest the pinnacle of Proper Science, is generally the most favored one. When you could use JIF to write off all those journals you've never heard of, or those insurgent open access fellas, it was useful. Now we'll circle back around to judging by old boys' club standards.

    Per paper metrics are the only way to get out from under this mess.

    " My most recent trainees have had a strong preference for publishing in Plos One and Scientific Reports"
    -Yeah, many of the trainees going back to China have taken note of Cell Reports as a way to get the Cell imprimatur on their CV with minimum fuss. Apparently that's a big deal for landing jobs in that system. I'm sure it's only coincidental that it is also one of the most costly OA journals.

    The fact that those pricey OA glam journals are going up in IF is unsettling to me. You'd think that CNS folks could provide OA options for *less* than a purely OA outfit. Has anyone heard a convincing argument why this isn't the case?

  • The New PI says:

    We submitted to Cerebral Cortex before JN because IF is higher and JN reviewers think they are working for Neuron. If they are going to ask you for a year of revision, then just go to Neuron...

  • hlhlhlhlh says:

    I agree with @Grumble - I would hold a paper from JN in relatively high esteem, regardless of the journal's current IF. In my field, top researchers tend to publish in certain journals - NN, Neuron, and, if not those two, JN. OA journals such as eLife are pushing their way into the fold, but still haven't supplanted the (perceived) aforementioned heavy hitters. It's my perception that most of my colleagues have a mental list of "good" journals, and these rankings are in no way influenced by IF. Even though CC has a higher IF than JN, I have no doubt that most (if not all) of my colleagues perceive JN to be a better journal. These opinions have a large impact, because the folks who have these mental lists of "good" journals are the same folks who sit on study sections and select grant awardees based on where they've published, and they're the same folks who are on job search committees and choose candidates based on where they've published. Knowing this, what is the real value of shooting for a journal just because it has a higher IF? In my experience, the people who brag about the IF of the journal that they submit to (with the exception of C/N/S, PNAS, Neuron, etc.) are looking to convince themselves that their science was more impactful than it really was.

  • Grumble says:

    @The New PI:
    Funny thing is, a few years ago we had the exact opposite experience with Cerebral Cortex. Reviewers clearly thought the journal was "all that" and asked for all kinds of BS (and the editor refused to help, and was very slow to boot). So we told them to fuck off and sent the paper to J Neurosci, where it was accepted without fuss.

    Of course, that was a few years ago. Maybe their rejection of our slop is why their IF is so high and JN's is declining...

  • MoBio says:

    @Dave:
    I wouldn't say those of us who resonate with JBC papers "write-off" or discount JIF as the sole metric. It's that the papers in JBC (at least in my field) are typically interesting and valuable to me in a way PLOSOne etc are not.

    Also, the editorial board is mainly superb at JBC so I know the paper was (usually) reviewed carefully.

    And....I trust the findings.

  • JohnBorghi says:

    This is a really interesting analysis. Just to throw in my two cents as a fMRI neuroscientist who works in a library, I think it's always worth reiterating just how much wonkiness there is in the calculation of JIF (described in many places, but I like this overview: http://goo.gl/6i8DRg).

  • drugmonkey says:

    And....I trust the findings.

    Ok, now you are just trolling.

  • Ben Saunders says:

    Another thing I suspect is happening more given the emergence of this cohort of new mini glam journals in the 10 IF range is that fewer CNS/N/NN rejects make their way down to JN. Maybe you get rejected from Neuron, have a go at eLife or Nature Comm. In the past, a direct jump down to JN would have been much more likely I think. So JN misses out on some of the flashy stuff that would drive, if not citations, at least attention and prestige that would keep it from sliding further.

    With the increased stratification of the ~10 and up IF journal set + scope creep I think it's too late for JN to make a big IF reversal. They should refocus on publishing medium scope papers that are of broad interest, instead of trying to compete with Neuron. Also, lose the categories.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Disagree on "broad interest". This conceit is a huge problem for them already- b/c there is no such thing. Or, more accurately the editors confuse their own interests with general interest.

  • Brian says:

    While we can argue about the perception of JIF, but analogous methods not supervised by Thompson Reuters tend to have JNeuro (and society pubs) fairing just fine. I know the earlier post with an alternate stat got derided as cherry picking to demonstrate a certain journals superiority but there is some consensus among alt metrics, e.g the abovementioned and Google's https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&view_op=search_venues&vq=neuroscience+

  • jmz4 says:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/07/hate-journal-impact-factors-new-study-gives-you-one-more-reason

    More evidence that JIF is highly unreliable as a means of assessing the value of a person's scholarship.

  • NewPerson says:

    Interesting about divergence of JIF in NN vs Neuron. From our own experience in the last few years, our NN papers have picked up way more citations than ones in Neuron (more than 15 - 30 for NN vs 6 or 7 for Neuron, articles about same age). Both Neuron articles took a LOT more work in terms of painful and pointless revisions

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