A smear campaign against Impact Factors…and the Sheep of Science
August 13, 2012
Stephen Curry has a nice lengthy diatribe against the Impact Factor up over at the occam’s typewriter collective. It is an excellent review of the problems associated with the growing dominance of journal Impact Factor in the career of scientists.
I am particularly impressed by:
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.
The problem I have with Curry’s post is the suggestion that we continue to need some mechanism, previously filled by journal identity/prestige, as a way to filter the scientific literature. As he quoted from a previous Nature EIC:
“nobody wants to have to wade through a morass of papers of hugely mixed quality, so how will the more interesting papers […] get noticed as such?”
This is the standard bollocks from those who have a direct or indirect interest in the GlamourMag game. Stephen Curry responds a bit too tepidly for my taste:
The trick will be to crowd-source the task.
Look, one of the primary tasks of a scientist is to sift through the literature. To review data that has been presented by other scientists and to decide, for herself, where these data fit. Are they good quality but dull? Exciting but limited? Need verification? Require validation in other assays? Gold-plated genius ready for Stockholm?
This. Is. What. We. Do!!!!!!
And yeah, we “crowdsource” it. We discuss papers with our colleagues. Lab heads and trainees alike. We come back to a paper we’ve read 20 times and find some new detail that is critical for understanding something else.
This notion that we need help “sifting” through the vast literature and that that help is to be provided by professional editors at Science and Nature who tell us what we need to pay attention to is nonsense.
And acutely detrimental to the progress of science.
I mean really. You are going to take a handful of journals and let them tell you (and your several hundred closest sub-field peers) what to work on? What is most important to pursue? Really?
That isn’t science.
That’s sheep herding.
And guess what scientists? You are the sheep in this scenario.