June 22, 2010

Impact Factor Boxing 2010

Golden Gloves Prelim Bouts by Kate Gardiner[This post is part of an ongoing series about impact factors. See this post for the latest impact factors published in 2012.]

Roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen, Impact Factor Boxing is here again. As with last year (2009), the metrics used in this combat sport are already a year out of date. But this doesn’t stop many people from writing about impact factors and it’s been an interesting year [1] for the metrics used by many to judge the relative value of scientific work. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) launched their article level metrics within the last year following the example of BioMedCentral’s “most viewed” articles feature. Next to these new style metrics, the traditional impact factors live on, despite their limitations. Critics like Harold Varmus have recently pointed out that (quote):

“The impact factor is a completely flawed metric and it’s a source of a lot of unhappiness in the scientific community. Evaluating someone’s scientific productivity by looking at the number of papers they published in journals with impact factors over a certain level is poisonous to the system. A couple of folks are acting as gatekeepers to the distribution of information, and this is a very bad system. It really slows progress by keeping ideas and experiments out of the public domain until reviewers have been satisfied and authors are allowed to get their paper into the journal that they feel will advance their career.”

To be fair though, it’s not the metric that is flawed, more the way it is used (and abused) – a subject covered in much detail in a special issue of Nature at http://nature.com/metrics [2,3,4,5]. It’s much harder than it should be to get hold of these metrics, so I’ve reproduced some data below (fair use? I don’t know I am not a lawyer…) to minimise the considerable frustrations of using Journal Citation Reports (JCR).

Love them, loathe them, use them, abuse them, ignore them or obsess over them … here’s a small selection of the 7347 journals that are tracked in JCR  ordered by increasing impact.

Journal Title 2009 data from isiknowledge.com/JCR Eigenfactor™ Metrics
Total Cites Impact Factor 5-Year Impact Factor Immediacy Index Articles Cited Half-life Eigenfactor™  Score Article Influence™ Score
RSC Integrative Biology 34 0.596 57 0.00000
Communications of the ACM 13853 2.346 3.050 0.350 177 >10.0 0.01411 0.866
IEEE Intelligent Systems 2214 3.144 3.594 0.333 33 6.5 0.00447 0.763
Journal of Web Semantics 651 3.412 0.107 28 4.6 0.00222
BMC Bionformatics 10850 3.428 4.108 0.581 651 3.4 0.07335 1.516
Journal of Molecular Biology 69710 3.871 4.303 0.993 916 9.2 0.21679 2.051
Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling 8973 3.882 3.631 0.695 266 5.9 0.01943 0.772
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) 4183 3.974 5.199 0.705 105 5.7 0.01366 1.585
PLoS ONE 20466 4.351 4.383 0.582 4263 1.7 0.16373 1.918
OUP Bioinformatics 36932 4.926 6.271 0.733 677 5.2 0.16661 2.370
Biochemical Journal 50632 5.155 4.365 1.262 455 >10.0 0.10896 1.787
BMC Biology 1152 5.636 0.702 84 2.7 0.00997
PLoS Computational Biology 4674 5.759 6.429 0.786 365 2.5 0.04369 3.080
Genome Biology 12688 6.626 7.593 1.075 186 4.8 0.08005 3.586
Trends in Biotechnology 8118 6.909 8.588 1.407 81 6.4 0.02402 2.665
Briefings in Bioinformatics 2898 7.329 16.146 1.109 55 5.3 0.01928 5.887
Nucleic Acids Research 95799 7.479 7.279 1.635 1070 6.5 0.37108 2.963
PNAS 451386 9.432 10.312 1.805 3765 7.6 1.68111 4.857
PLoS Biology 15699 12.916 14.798 2.692 195 3.5 0.17630 8.623
Nature Biotechnology 31564 29.495 27.620 5.408 103 5.7 0.14503 11.803
Science 444643 29.747 31.052 6.531 897 8.8 1.52580 16.570
Cell 153972 31.152 32.628 6.825 359 8.7 0.70117 20.150
Nature 483039 34.480 32.906 8.209 866 8.9 1.74951 18.054
New England Journal of Medicine 216752 47.050 51.410 14.557 352 7.5 0.67401 19.870

Maybe next year Thomson Reuters, who publish this data, could start attaching large government health warnings (like on cigarette packets) and long disclaimers to this data? WARNING: Abusing these figures can seriously damage your Science – you have been warned!


  1. Rizkallah, J., & Sin, D. (2010). Integrative Approach to Quality Assessment of Medical Journals Using Impact Factor, Eigenfactor, and Article Influence Scores PLoS ONE, 5 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010204
  2. Abbott, A., Cyranoski, D., Jones, N., Maher, B., Schiermeier, Q., & Van Noorden, R. (2010). Metrics: Do metrics matter? Nature, 465 (7300), 860-862 DOI: 10.1038/465860a
  3. Van Noorden, R. (2010). Metrics: A profusion of measures Nature, 465 (7300), 864-866 DOI: 10.1038/465864a
  4. Braun, T., Osterloh, M., West, J., Rohn, J., Pendlebury, D., Bergstrom, C., & Frey, B. (2010). How to improve the use of metrics Nature, 465 (7300), 870-872 DOI: 10.1038/465870a
  5. Lane, J. (2010). Let’s make science metrics more scientific Nature, 464 (7288), 488-489 DOI: 10.1038/464488a

[Creative Commons licensed picture of Golden Gloves Prelim Bouts by Kate Gardiner ]

April 28, 2010

Philip Campbell on Science Facts and Frictions

Philip Campbell: Will you pay for good online stuff, Dammit? (Libraries do, thankfully)As part of the Gates Distinguished Lecture Series editor Philip Campbell is giving a public lecture at 6.30pm tonight titled Science – facts and frictions at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. The abstract and text below is reproduced from talks.cam.ac.uk:

Climategate’, MMR vaccine, GM crops, stem cells – these are examples of public debates in which science and scientists have come under attack. And yet the processes of science were no different in kind from those in calmer territories, such as cancer research, where the public not only trusts researchers but directly donates half a billion pounds every year in their support. Why are there such contrasts? And what can scientists and others do in response to such attacks? The talk will offer some suggestions.

As Editor-in-Chief of Nature, Philip Campbell heads a team of about 90 editorial staff around the world. Dr. Campbell takes direct editorial responsibility for the content of Nature editorials, writing some of them. He is the seventh [1] Editor-in-Chief since the journal was launched in 1869.

Dr. Campbell’s role as Editor-in-Chief of Nature publications (of which there are many editorially independent journals and several websites) is to ensure that the quality and integrity appropriate to the Nature name are maintained, and that appropriate individuals are appointed as chief editors. He sits on the executive board of Nature’s parent company, Nature Publishing Group.

According to the accompanying press release from the University, Campbell:

“is particularly interested in groups of scientists who regularly produce blogs in order to help the public and journalists gain access to their perspectives on scientific developments and controversies.”

So, if you’re in or near Cambridge tonight, this talk is open the public and looks like it will be enlightening.

[Update, some interesting things mentioned in this talk in no particular order:


  1. Philip Campbell (1995). Postscript from a new hand Nature, 378 (6558), 649-649 DOI: 10.1038/378649b0
  2. Daniel Sarewitz (2004). How science makes environmental controversies worse Environmental Science & Policy, 7 (5), 385-403 DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2004.06.001

June 2, 2009

Blogging For Profit: Costs and Benefits

Business Graph by nDevilTV
The organisers of the Science Online London 2009 conference are asking people to propose their own session ideas (see some examples here), so here is proposal:

Title: Blogging For Profit: Costs and Benefits

What are the costs and benefits of blogging and how can you make sure the latter justifies the former?

This (proposed) session will look at two kinds of profit, and the costs associated with each.

  1. Research profit (in science and academia), building digital reputations on the Web. Can blogging help your next grant proposal for research funding and if so, how? How can blogging be used to increase the visibility and impact of published research via the likes of ResearchBlogging.org, blogs.nature.com and other aggregators?
  2. Financial profit (in business), making blogging pay the bills. What business models (and infrastructure) exist to support blogging? Including, but not limited to: Nature Network, ScienceBlogs, Google AdSense, “20% time“, “free” tools (WordPress, Blogger, OpenWetWare etc). Going solo vs. joining a club – which business models and tools are right for you?

This could be followed by a general discussion on these benefits. When do they justify their costs (and risks) and make for profitable blogging?

If this is a successful proposal, I’ll need some help. Any offers? If you are interested in joining in the fun, details are at scienceonlinelondon.org

[CC-licensed Business Graph picture by nDevilTV]

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