Hands up who hates impact factors. Everyone? Then why do we still use them?
I believe one of the reasons is that we think the people at the top use them. There is no doubt some truth in this, though I was relieved to discover that many influential people are willing to speak out against them.
A journal’s impact factor – the average number of times its recent articles have been cited – is now used to assess institutions and individuals. In this video, Professor Martin Chalfie describes why this is a ‘horrible’ use for them:
Instead, we should judge a person on the quality of their research, as Sir Paul Nurse Hon FSB, director of The Francis Crick Institute, explains:
Heads of department can be found boasting about the number of high-impact journals their department has been published in, PhD students can be found lying awake wondering what hope there is for their career unless they get a ‘big’ paper. However, rest assured, you don’t actually need a ‘high-impact’ publication for your Nobel Prize.
Martin Chalfie, who received his Nobel Prize in 2008 for his work on green fluorescent protein, did his own study on where prize-awarded research was first published. I’m pleased to report that it seems quite a few journals have had that honour.
Let’s hope that Nobel Laureate Joe Goldstein is correct when he predicts our obsession with impact factors will fade away. Good riddance!