And help keep his attention on this possible throw-away from the State of the Union address.

I was heartened by several observations from the US President that seemed to suggest he understands that investment in basic research (no, not just targeted development) was the key to sustained economic growth into the future. But you need to help keep him on task. And get Congress on board.

I noted a few months ago that a petition has been launched to collect signatures favoring minor increases in funding for the NIH. There are 3,931 people as of this writing.

Are you one of them? Have you passed the link around your lab, department or Uni? How about to your academic socities? Have you posted it on your Facebook and Twitter feeds?

Please do.

As you know there are diverging viewpoints across the wide swath of traditions in the ginormous tent of biomedical science regarding academic credit based on where one’s articles appear. You know that Impact Factor of a journal (average number of citations for articles published in a 2 yr period, roughly) is important to many. Where the higher the IF of the journal you publish in, the better. Regardless of the number of citations garnered by the actual paper. So if you happen to work an article into a IF 15 journal and that is only cited 8 times in two years, that’s way better than the one you fought into a IF 4 journal that turns out to be field shaping and gets cited 20 times, 50 times or 100 times in the first two years.

This led me some time back to speculate that what we really needed was a measure of how your article performed relative to expected value for the journal in which it was published. I proposed a z-score, I think.

Today, Odyssey has me thinking about a few things related to this topic.

The most directly appropriate one is the notion of whether it is a matter of differential credit if you consistently get your papers cited more than the IF of the journals in question, less than the journal IF or a random selection. I argue today that since IF is more universally valued, if you are getting papers into journals of higher IF than the articles actually secure themselves, you are winning. Conversely, if you consistently get more cites than the IF of the journals you publish in, you are not being credited as much as you should be.

OTOH, my prior, more personal view is that if you are kicking butt with more citations than the IF of the journals into which you fight your papers, it shows that your work is more valuable than the peer review system “predicts” on initial review and therefore you are the awesome.

(Oh yes, that is exactly what the Byzantine IF chase of modern biomedical science is doing, btw. Trying to predict the number of citations your paper will get in the next two years. Deal with it.)

Of course, this is contaminated by the presumption that the authors of each paper actually care to participate in the IF chase system. Not everyone does….

As you may be aware, I exist in a field that still has a bit of OldSkoole authenticity to it. Folks for whom the IF chase is not the be-all, end-all it is for many spheres in academic science today. Not that they don’t have their little opinions about what type of publication record reflects “the best kind of scientist”. Not at all. It is just that IF is a lesser player.

So there are some folks that just don’t seem to give a damn about IF and they keep publishing in the same handful of society level journals that they have always favored. People who I would be happy to argue have had a sustained and fundamental impact on the world’s understanding of addiction, biological actions of recreational drugs, neuropharmacology and, hell, pharmacology in general.

So there is a pocket of the world of drug abuse science, which sits in evaluation of YHN btw, which seems to value a record of publication in certain journals of a less than Glamourous IF level. Often this is because the journal is indeed the journal which is tied to a specific society. And one’s participation in that society is viewed as a GoodThing to do. So if you belong to the society, perhaps you’d better publish in their journal now and again. Actually, perhaps you should do so frequently.

There are, however, examples of folks who seem to take this a wee bit too much to heart, in my view. And herein lies my pondering of the day. Why do I see diversity in the journals in which one publishes to be a good thing? Why does the appearance of a high density of pubs in a single journal (again, we’re talking IF levels where there is plenty of competition on that metric) make my eyebrow raise? Why am I drawn to an appearance of US/Norteamericano versus OldEuro bias in the selection of journals? (or is this latter merely a reflection of the aforementioned academic-society-journal captivity I’ve mentioned above? Why do I think to myself “Hey, we’ve never published in [Insert modifiers] Journal of [-ology] before, let’s give it a go” instead of sticking with a handful of the most-frequent suspect journals?

How’sabout you folks? Do you have a handful of normal journals that you consider using? Is there a strict hierarchy/search path that you descend in your attempt to get as high an IF possible for each submission? Are you topically distributed such that one set of projects in your lab goes to one journal and other projects have their own target journals?

I’ll let you speculate in the comments about the source of the quote that heads this entry. Grad student? Young scientist? Aging greybeard? From a small town grocer background/lab or a major playah?