June 23, 2009

Impact Factor Boxing 2009

Fight Night Punch Test by djclear904[This post is part of an ongoing series about impact factors]

The latest results from the annual impact factor boxing world championship contest are out. This is a combat sport where scientific journals are scored according to their supposed influence and impact in Science. This years competition rankings include the first-ever update to the newly introduced Five Year Impact Factor and Eigenfactor™ Metrics [1,2] in Journal Citation Reports (JCR) on the Web (see www.isiknowledge.com/JCR warning: clunky website requires subscription*), presumably in response to widespread criticism of impact factors. The Eigenfactor™ seems to correlate quite closely with the impact factor scores, both of which work at the level of the journal, although they use different methods for measuring a given journals impact. However, what many authors are often more interested in is the impact of an individual article, not the journal where it was published. So it would be interesting to see how the figures below tally with Google Scholar, see also comments by Abhishek Tiwari. I’ve included a table below of bioinformatics impact factors, updated for June 2009. Of course, when I say 2009 (today), I mean 2008 (these are the latest figures available based on data from 2007) – so this shiny new information published this week is already out of date [3] and flawed [4,5] but here is a selection of the data anyway: [update: see figures published in June 2010.]

Journal Title 2008 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
BMC Bionformatics 8141 3.781 4.246 0.664 607 2.8 0.06649 1.730
OUP Bioinformatics 30344 4.328 6.481 0.566 643 4.8 0.18204 2.593
Briefings in Bioinformatics 2908 4.627 1.273 44 4.5 0.02188
PLoS Computational Biology 2730 5.895 6.144 0.826 253 2.1 0.03063 3.370
Genome Biology 9875 6.153 7.812 0.961 229 4.4 0.07930 3.858
Nucleic Acids Research 86787 6.878 6.968 1.635 1070 6.5 0.37108 2.963
PNAS 416018 9.380 10.228 1.635 3508 7.4 1.69893 4.847
Science 409290 28.103 30.268 6.261 862 8.4 1.58344 16.283
Nature 443967 31.434 31.210 8.194 899 8.5 1.76407 17.278

The internet is radically changing the way we communicate and this includes scientific publishing, as media mogul Rupert Murdoch once pointed out big will not beat small any more – it will be the fast beating the slow.  An interesting question for publishers and scientists is, how can the Web help the faster flyweight and featherweight boxers (smaller journals) compete and punch-above-their-weight with the reigning world champion heavyweights (Nature, Science and PNAS)? Will the heavyweight publishers always have the killer knockout punches? If you’ve got access to the internet, then you already have a ringside seat from which to watch all the action. This fight should be entertaining viewing and there is an awful lot of money riding on the outcome [6-11].

Seconds away, round two…


  1. Fersht, A. (2009). The most influential journals: Impact Factor and Eigenfactor Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (17), 6883-6884 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0903307106
  2. Bergstrom, C., & West, J. (2008). Assessing citations with the Eigenfactor Metrics Neurology, 71 (23), 1850-1851 DOI: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000338904.37585.66
  3. Cockerill, M. (2004). Delayed impact: ISI’s citation tracking choices are keeping scientists in the dark. BMC Bioinformatics, 5 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-5-93
  4. Allen, L., Jones, C., Dolby, K., Lynn, D., & Walport, M. (2009). Looking for Landmarks: The Role of Expert Review and Bibliometric Analysis in Evaluating Scientific Publication Outputs PLoS ONE, 4 (6) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005910
  5. Grant, R.P. (2009) On article-level metrics and other animals Nature Network
  6. Corbyn, Z. (2009) Do academic journals pose a threat to the advancement of Science? Times Higher Education
  7. Fenner, M. (2009) PLoS ONE: Interview with Peter Binfield Gobbledygook blog at Nature Network
  8. Hoyt, J. (2009) Who is killing science on the Web? Publishers or Scientists? Mendeley Blog
  9. Hull, D. (2009) Escape from the Impact Factor: The Great Escape? O’Really? blog
  10. Murray-Rust, P. (2009) THE article: Do academic journals pose a threat to the advancement of science? Peter Murray-Rust’s blog: A Scientist and the Web
  11. Wu, S. (2009) The evolution of Scientific Impact shirleywho.wordpress.com

* This important data should be freely available (e.g. no subscription), since crucial decisions about the allocation of public money depend on it, but that’s another story.

[More commentary on this post over at friendfeed. CC-licensed Fight Night Punch Test by djclear904]

January 20, 2009

Donald Braben on Scientific Freedom

The Elixir of Civilization?Donald Braben was in Manchester last week, to give a seminar on scientific freedom, here is the abstract of his talk:

Every major scientific discovery came unexpectedly out of the blue.  Until a few decades ago, creative researchers were free to explore. The unpredicted harvest was prodigious. Nowadays, academic research is subject to unprecedented levels of control.  Consensus rules.  In industry, companies focus on “core business“, and severely restrict the range of their research.  Consequently, caution is encouraged everywhere, and highly original research is curtailed.  As a result, there has been a dearth of major new scientific discoveries in recent years.  The significance of the problems and their possible solutions will be discussed.

So who is Donald Braben? Don has held a senior position at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, and a has a visiting Professorship at University College London (UCL) . He has written two books [3,5], going against the currently prevalent views on science funding. To overcome the problem of the lack of scientific freedom, Braben proposes the creation of a twenty first century “Planck Club”, (named after some bloke called Max Planck). The Planck Club consists of an elite group of the very best scientists who are completely free to explore their ideas without submitting their project proposals to peer review (what Don calls “peer preview”).

Most of the audience were sympathetic to what Don had to say, and his talk provoked an extended discussion about the best way to fund the best Science. All this reminds me of the Skunk Works projects and the infamous “20% time” given to engineers at Google – freedom in Science (and engineering) really matters, but it isn’t always so easy to decide who deserves it and why. Thanks to Don for an entertaining and thought-provoking seminar, and thanks to Paul Popelier for organising it.

If this kind of stuff interests you, take a look at the references below.


  1. Peter Augsdorfer (2008). Book review: Scientific freedom ChemBioChem 9 (17), 2889-2890. DOI:10.1002/cbic.200800670 “The real value of the book is that it shows that unconstrained funding can really work and it tells us how.”
  2. Tim Birkhead (2008). In praise of fishing trips: The tyranny of ‘the hypothesis’ has made science too timid Times Higher Education 2008-07-31
  3. Donald Braben (1994) To Be A Scientist: The spirit of adventure in science and technology, Oxford University Press, isbn:0198522908
  4. Donald Braben (2007). UK Science must not roll over and play dead Times Higher Education 2007-12-07
  5. Donald Braben (2008). Scientific Freedom: The Elixir of Civilisation, Wiley, isbn:0470226544
  6. Donald Braben (2008). Why peer review thwarts innovation New Scientist 2644, 2008-02-23,
  7. Donald Braben (2008). Shoot for the blue skies: The Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) constrains academics Times Higher Education 2008-12-22
  8. Zoe Corbyn (2008). Kill peer-review, save civilisation. Times Higher Education 2008-04-17
  9. Tom Feilden (2008). Searching for Einsteins: Is Science stagnating? BBC blogs (and Radio 4 Today programme) 2008-12-11
  10. Krebs and Braben (2009). Don Braben and John Krebs discuss is funding for scientists is under threat Today programme 2009-02-27
  11. Mark Gilbert (2009). Being judged is hard, not being judged is worse Times Higher Education 2009-01-15
  12. Douglas Kell (2009). Scientific Freedom at the UK Research Councils BBSRC blogs 2009-01-05
  13. KFC (2009). How Google’s PageRank predicts Nobel Prize winners arxivblog.com, the physics arXiv blog 2009-01-21
  14. Michael Nielsen (2008). Three myths about peer review michaelnielsen.org 2009-01-08

September 29, 2008

BBSRC UK Roadshow, Autumn 2008

bend in the roadThe Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is on the road this autumn in London, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow and Cambridge. Potential applicants, grant holders and any other interested parties are strongly urged to attend and learn about BBSRC’s plans for the future including new procedures and new Committee structures. The road shows will also provide an opportunity to meet the new members of the BBSRC Senior Management team.

From an original email sent by Alf Game, Deputy Director of Science and Technology Group. See BBSRC Roadshows.

The BBSRC has revised its future strategic priorities and the way in which they will be delivered through responsive mode peer review and is holding a series of road shows “Enabling the Delivery of Excellence with Impact” at various locations across the UK. (more…)

September 4, 2008

Famous for fifteen people

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol (and oddsock)The artist Andy Warhol once said:

“In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes”.

This well worn saying has been quoted and misquoted in hundreds of different ways in the forty years since Warhol first coined it [1].

Bad Scientist Ben Goldacre, in his keynote speech* at Science Blogging (sciblog) 2008, highlighted one of these deliberate misquotes, which he attributed to NTK.net (Need To Know: Britain’s most sarcastic high-tech weekly newsletter). It goes a little something like this:

“On the internet everybody can be world famous for fifteen people“.

This wonderful expression captures the nature and scale of science blogging on the internet today in a nutshell. Personally, I think it also sums up much of the spirit of the Science Blogging 2008 conference as well. In total, around eight groups of fifteen people, attended the conference. It was physically impossible to talk to all of them in one day, especially since I had to slink off early at 7pm, but I did manage to meet the following people: (more…)

August 22, 2008

If Science was an Olympic Sport…

Olympic Rings by JL08A fictional scene from the future: The Olympic games, London 2012. A new candidate sport is on trial, joining skateboarding, rugby and golf at their debut Olympic games. It is challenging discipline called Science, a sport more ancient than Olympia itself. The crowd awaits eagerly in the all new Boris Johnson Olympic stadium. It has taken more than 2000 years just to convince the International Olympic Committee that Science is worthy of being an Olympic sport. The big day has finally arrived but the judges are still arguing about how to award the medals to scientists. Despite all the metrics involved, it’s all very very subjective. The games go ahead anyway, and there are lots of exciting new events: (more…)

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