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At home I often announce “technology free” days just so we can get back in touch with the important things in life, or the thing I consider important.

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We need something more than the number of times something is cited to understand how important the work is to science and technology, I agree.
In my field (molecular biology, gene regulation), if I want to publish in high impact factor journals (nature, science, cell,…..), it is not just a question of Novelty, High importance or mediacl breakthroughs. No it is also a question of Money ! You know the genome wide association studies, deep sequencing of 3000 tumors taken from 10.000 individuals, that sort of things.


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Second, the heavy focus on IFs means some journals actively manipulate the scientific process to maximise their impact factor! I was shocked when recently submitting a paper to a respected learned society that during the submission process I was asked to fill out a form which included as far as I can recall fields for: (i) the number of references in my paper (hmm, ok), (ii) the number of references to other papers from the journal to which I was submitting (what!!), (iii) the number of references to other papers from the journal to which I was submitting within the last 2 years (speechless).

Regarding the association between journal metrics and access which Stephen touches on: a tenet of the open access movement is the imperative to make journal content available to non academics (academic access currently being high).

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Great to see so much excitement about altmetrics in the post and comments! I agree that it’ll be touch to change the culture of academia to value new, social indicators of engagement and impact. That said, in the two years since we wrote the I’ve seen a huge upswing of interest and support for this approach, including articles in the and elsewhere, and a $125k grant from the Sloan foundation to fund .

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We certainly need to be able to reach that audience. The Wellcome Trust has a standing policy on disregarding journal names and, by association, impact factors. But they are the only funding organisation that does so. We need to shame them into action.

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Still better, take two samples of young scientists and allocate them at random to (a) get on with the job (b) to be assessed by the cruel and silly methods used at, for example, Queen Mary, University of London. That way you’d really be able to tell whether imposition of their methods had any beneficial effects.

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But every little helps, so, taking my cue from society’s assault on another disease-laden dependency, it is time to stigmatise impact factors the way that cigarettes have been. It is time to start a smear campaign so that nobody will look at them without thinking of their ill effects, so that nobody will mention them uncritically without feeling a prick of shame.

Rochester Institute of Technology

But the real problem started when impact factors began to be applied to papers and to people, a development that Garfield never anticipated. I can’t trace the precise origin of the growth but it has become a cancer that can no longer be ignored. The malady seems to particularly afflict researchers in science, technology and medicine who, astonishingly for a group that prizes its intelligence, have acquired a dependency on a valuation system that is grounded in falsity. We spend our lives fretting about how high an impact factor we can attach to our published research because it has become such an in the award of the grants and promotions needed to advance a career. We submit to time-wasting and demoralising rounds of manuscript rejection, retarding the progress of science in the chase for a false measure of prestige.