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.
via comment from A Salty Scientist:
When you search for papers on PubMed, it usually gives the results in chronological order so many new but irrelevant papers are on the top. When you search papers on Google Scholar, it usually gives results ranked by citations, so will miss the newest exciting finding. Students in my lab recently made a very simple but useful tool Gnosis. It ranks all the PubMed hits by (Impact Factor of the journal + Year), so you get the newest and most important papers first.
Emphasis added, as if I need to. You see, relevant and important papers are indexed by the journal impact factor. Of course.
A Reader submitted this gem of a spam email:
We are giving away $100 or more in rewards for citing us in your publication! Earn $100 or more based on the journal’s impact factor (IF). This voucher can be redeemed your next order at [Company] and can be used in conjunction with our ongoing promotions!
How do we determine your reward?
If you published a paper in Science (IF = 30) and cite [Company], you will be entitled to a voucher with a face value of $3,000 upon notification of the publication (PMID).
This is a new one on me.
As you will recall, I was very happy when the Journal of Neuroscience decided to ban the inclusion of any Supplemental Materials in articles considered for publication. That move took place back in 2010.
Dr. Becca, however, made the following observation on a recent post:
I'm done submitting to J Neuro. The combination of endless experiment requests due to unlimited space and no supp info,
I find that to be a fascinating comment. It suggests that perhaps the J Neuro policy has been ineffectual, or even has backfired.
To be honest, I can't recall that I have noticed anything in a J Neuro article that I've read in the past few years that reminded me of this policy shift one way or the other.
How about you, Dear Reader? Noticed any changes that appear to be related to this banning of Supplemental Materials?
For that matter, has the banning of Supplemental Materials altered your perception of the science that is published in that journal?
I can't think of a time when seeing someone's h-index created a discordant view of their impact. Or for that matter when reviewing someones annual cites was surprising.
I just think the Gestalt impression you generate about a scientist is going to correlate with most quantification measures.
Unless there are weird outliers I suppose. But is there is something peculiar about a given scientist's publications that skews one particular measure of awesomeness....wouldn't someone being presented that measure discount accordingly?
Like if a h-index was boosted by a host of middle author contributions to a much more highly cited domain than the one most people associate you with? That sort of thing.
Our good blog friend DJMH offered up the following on a post by Odyssey:
Because the whole point of supplemental material is that the publisher doesn't want to spend a dime supporting it
This is nonsense. This is not "the whole point". This is peripheral to the real point.
In point of fact, the real reason GlamourMags demand endless amounts of supplementary data is to squeeze out the competition journals. They do this by denying those other journals the data that would otherwise be offered up as additional publications. Don't believe it? Take a look through some issues of Science and Nature from the late 1960s through maybe the mid 1970s. The research publications were barely Brief Communications. A single figure, maybe two. And no associated "Supplemental Materials", either. And then, if you are clever, you will find the real paper that was subsequently published in a totally different journal. A real journal. With all of the meat of the study that was promised by the teaser in the Glam Mag fleshed out.
Glamour wised up and figured out that with the "Supplementary Materials" scam they can lock up the data that used to be put in another journal. This has the effect of both damping citations of that specific material and collecting what citations there are to themselves. All without having to treble or quadruple the size of their print journal.
Nice little scam to increase their Journal Impact Factor distance from the competition.
A tweet from @babs_mph sent me back to an older thread where Rockey introduced the new Biosketch concept. One "Senior investigator" commented:
For those who wonder where this idea came from, please see the commentary by Deputy Director Tabak and Director Collins (Nature 505, 612–613, January 2014) on the issue of the reproducibility of results. One part of the commentary suggests that scientists may be tempted to overstate conclusions in order to get papers published in high profile journals. The commentary adds “NIH is contemplating modifying the format of its ‘biographical sketch’ form, which grant applicants are required to complete, to emphasize the significance of advances resulting from work in which the applicant participated, and to delineate the part played by the applicant. Other organizations such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have used this format and found it more revealing of actual contributions to science than the traditional list of unannotated publications.”
Here's Collins and Tabak, 2014 in freely available PMC format. The lead in to the above referenced passage is:
Perhaps the most vexed issue is the academic incentive system. It currently overemphasizes publishing in high-profile journals. No doubt worsened by current budgetary woes, this encourages rapid submission of research findings to the detriment of careful replication. To address this, the NIH is contemplating...
Hmmm. So by changing this, the ability on grant applications to say something like:
"Yeah, we got totally scooped out of a Nature paper because we didn't rush some data out before it was ready but look, our much better paper that came out in our society journal 18 mo later was really the seminal discovery, we swear. So even though the entire world gives primary credit to our scoopers, you should give us this grant now."
is supposed to totally alter the dynamics of the "vexed issue" of the academic incentive system.
Right guys. Right.
As far as I can tell, the British Journal of Pharmacology has taken to requiring that authors who use animal subjects conduct their studies in accordance with the "ARRIVE" (Animals in Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments) principles. These are conveniently detailed in their own editorial:
McGrath JC, Drummond GB, McLachlan EM, Kilkenny C, Wainwright CL.Guidelines for reporting experiments involving animals: the ARRIVE guidelines.Br J Pharmacol. 2010 Aug;160(7):1573-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00873.x.
and paper on the guidelines:
Kilkenny C, Browne W, Cuthill IC, Emerson M, Altman DG; NC3Rs Reporting Guidelines Working Group.Animal research: reporting in vivo experiments: the ARRIVE guidelines. Br J Pharmacol. 2010 Aug;160(7):1577-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00872.x.
The editorial has been cited 270 times. The guidelines paper has been cited 199 times so far and the vast, vast majority of these are in, you guessed it, the BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHARMACOLOGY.
One might almost suspect the journal now has a demand that authors indicate that they have followed these ARRIVE guidelines by citing the 3 page paper listing them. The journal IF is 5.067 so having an item cited 199 times since it was published in the August 2010 issue represents a considerable outlier. I don't know if a "Guidelines" category of paper (as this is described on the pdf) goes into the ISI calculation. For all we know they had to exempt it. But why would they?
And I notice that some other journals seem to have published the guidelines under the byline of the self same authors! Self-Plagiarism!!!
Perhaps they likewise demand that authors cite the paper from their own journal?
Seems a neat little trick to run up an impact factor, doesn't it? Given the JIT and publication rate of real articles in many journals, a couple of hundred extra cites in the sampling interval can have an effect on the JIT.
Naturally this is a time for a resurgence of blathering about how Journal Impact Factors are a hugely flawed measure of the quality of individual papers or scientists. Also it is a time of much bragging about recent gains....I was alerted to the fact that they were out via a society I follow on Twitter bragging about their latest number.
Of course, one must evaluate such claims in context. Seemingly the JIF trend is for unrelenting gains year over year. Which makes sense, of course, if science continues to expand. More science, more papers and therefore more citations seems to me to be the underlying reality. So the only thing that matters is how much a given journal has changed relative to other peer journals, right? A numerical gain, sometimes ridiculously tiny, is hardly the stuff of great pride.
So I thought I'd take a look at some journals that publish drug-abuse type science. There are a ton more in the ~2.5-4.5 range but I picked out the ones that seemed to actually have changed at some point.
Neuropsychopharmacology, the journal of the ACNP and subject of the abovequoted Twitt, has closed the gap on arch-rival Biological Psychiatry in the past two years, although each of them trended upward in the past year. For NPP, putting the sadly declining Journal of Neuroscience (the Society for Neuroscience's journal) firmly behind them has to be considered a gain. J Neuro is more general in topic and, as PhysioProf is fond of pointing out does not publish review articles, so this is expected. NPP invented a once-annual review journal a few years ago and it counts in their JIF so I'm going to score the last couple of years' of gain to this, personally.
Addiction Biology is another curious case. It is worth special note for both the large gains in JIF and the fact it sits atop the ISI Journal Citation Reports (JCR) category for Substance Abuse. The first jump in IF was associated with a change in publisher so perhaps it started getting promoted more heavily and/or guided for JIF gains more heavily. There was a change in editor in there somewhere as well which may have contributed. The most recent gains, I wager, have a little something to do with the self-reinforcing virtuous cycle of having topped the category listing in the ISI JCR and having crept to the top of a large heap of ~2.5-4.5 JIF behavioral pharmacology / neuroscience type journals. This journal had been quarterly up until about two years ago when it started publishing bimonthly and their pre-print queue is ENORMOUS. I saw some articles published in a print issue this year that had appeared online two years before. TWO YEARS! That's a lot of time to accumulate citations before the official JIF window even starts counting. There was news of a record number of journals being excluded from the JCR for self-citation type gaming of the index....I do wonder why the pre-print queue length is not of concern to ISI.
PLoS ONE is an interest of mine, as you know. Phil Davis has an interesting analysis up at Scholarly Kitchen which discusses the tremendous acceleration in papers published per year in PLoS ONE and argues a decline in JIF is inevitable. I tend to agree.
Neuropharmacology and British Journal of Pharmacology are examples of journals which are near the top of the aforementioned mass of journals that publish normal scientific work in my fields of interest. Workmanlike? I suppose the non-perjorative use of that term would be accurate. These two journals bubbled up slightly in the past five years but seem to be enjoying different fates in 2012. It will be interesting to see if these are just wobbles or if the journals can sustain the trends. If real, it may show how easily one journal can suffer a PLoS ONE type of fate whereby slightly elevated JIF draws more papers of a lesser eventual impact. While BJP may be showing the sort of virtuous cycle that I suspect Addiction Biology has been enjoying. One slightly discordant note for this interpretation is that Neuropharmacology has managed to get the online-to-print publication lag down to some of the lowest amongst its competition. This is a plus for authors who need to pad their calendar-year citation numbers but it may be a drag on the JIF since articles don't enjoy as much time to acquire citations.