Since I know many of my readers are comparative children who may have missed the legendary sketch comedy show….


There’s some Twittage today about the Glamour Science situation and what we (meaning the relatively established professoriat) are doing to back up our fine criticisms. Particularly in the face of younger and transitioning scientists who realize that they need to play the GlamourChase game as hard as they can if they expect to make it.

Personally, I don’t think we need some overt revolution of radical shunning of anything having to do with high Impact Factor journals to have a substantial effect. Refusing to play the game has its advantages. I ran off a couple of quick Twitts having to do with choices we can make.

First, never let data go unpublished for lack of impact.
To me the absolutely most corrosive part of GlamourIdiot science is that lots and lots of perfectly fine data go unpublished. Forever. This is for several reasons including the fact that at least 5 person years of work go into the CNS paper and even with ridiculous amounts of Supplementary Figures only a fraction gets into press. There’s a lot of dross that nobody wants to see, sure, but there’s also a lot of stuff that would help other people out. Save them some blind alleys if nothing else. (Did we mention this is being done on the federal taxpayer dime? And that grant dollars are scarce? wouldn’t the NIH want most of the work they payed for made available…?) Then there’s the scoopage factor- if someone else gets there first it automatically downgrades your work…so the GlamourDouche lab goes in another direction to try to salvage another high-profile publication. So there’s another bunch of figures trashed. Figures that save for the scooping would have been in the same damn high IF journal! Jesus this is INSANE, right? yeah, well, welcome to GlamourScience. Then we have projects that just aren’t cool enough in terms of the result. Some PIs simply won’t let their labs publish it for fear of diminishing the aggregate lab JIF level. Again…crazy, right? Why the hell does a PI with 5 CNS papers a year give a flying fig if a postdoc sneaks out a IF 5 paper? There’s an instructional part here for postdocs- some of this lack of publication is your own damn fault. Yes, you who have drunken the FlavorAde participate in this too. Why? Because you don’t force the PI to see sense. For one thing, let me tell you the hard hearted PI’s heart tends to soften when an essentially ready-to-submit manuscript crosses her desk with a clear rationale for why it is okay (and necessary) to publish the data and why this particular journal is perfect, save for the IF. Don’t be afraid to play on her scoop fears now… “We gotta get this in somewhere, I hear Postdoc Lin has her story ready to go in our competitor lab!”. Some mentors will be susceptible to the “I need X first author pubs to get a shot at a job and I already have the two CNS papers so….” argument.

Second, never ever decide what to cite based on JIF.
Ever. It’s hard. I know. You are steeped in turning first to the big papers in high reputation single-word-title journals. This is unnecessary you know. Cite the right paper that makes the right point for which you are citing it.

Third, if you can’t cite first/best/recent…go with best over first
I tend to, all else equal, go with a citation strategy that pays homage to the first paper for a given point, the best one and then maybe a recent one to show the continuation of the theme, topicality, etc. The best is rarely ever the GlamourMag one although when you get down to the sub 10IF level in my fields then you might see a bit of a correlation. The first observation, especially if it is coolio stuff, tends to have been in a Glamour Mag which is why I make the point. But hey, if it isn’t, cite the first one. Give some cred to the overlooked person who published a finding 10 years before some big lab jumped all over it.

Fourth- review manuscripts on your principles. Get your peers into high IF journals
You know what they want to hear, those GlamourEditors. Impact, importance and eleventy six kinds of pizazz. Write your reviews accordingly to get your peers’ solid, if not really Glamourous stuff into those journals. Destablize the system from within. Just be subtle about it or the Associate Editors will no longer send you stuff to review.

A Twitt by someone who appears to be a postdoc brought me up short.

@mbeisen @neuromusic @drisis @devinberg Does this mean I an screwed since I have NO FREAKING CLUE what the IF are of journals I publish in?!


A followup from @mrhunsaker wasn’t much better.

@drisis @mbeisen @neuromusic @devinberg I agree that high IF is demanded. I’m constantly asked to find a Higher Impact co-author & I refuse

What this even means I do not know*. A “Higher Impact co-author”? What? Maybe this means collaborate with someone doing something that is going to get your own work into a higher IF journal? Anyway….

The main point here is that no matter your position on the Journal Impact Factor, no matter the subfield of biomedical science in which you reside, no matter the nature of your questions, models and data…it is absolutely not okay to not understand the implications of the IF. Particularly by the time you are a postdoc.

You absolutely need to understand the IF of journals you publish in, people in your subfield publish in and that people who will be judging you publish in. You need to understand the range, what represents a bit of a stretch for your work, what is your bread-and-butter zone and what is a dump journal.

If your mentors and fellow (more senior) trainees are not bringing you up to speed on this stuff they are committing mentoring malpractice.

*UPDATE: apparently this person meant for text book chapters and review articles that editors were suggesting a more senior person should be involved. Different issue….but the phrasing as “higher impact” co-author is disturbing.