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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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July 3, 2012

The Papers In This Journal Are Just So Darn Relevant

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Posted by Derek

Thomson Reuters is out with their lists of impact factors for journals, and these come with the usual cautions: too much is made of the impact factor in general, and the very fact that the tiniest variations are seized on gleefully by journal publishers should be enough to set off alarms.

This time a record number of journals were taken off the list for excessive self-citation. And as that Nature News article notes, somewhat gleefully, one of the journals had recently been profiled by Thomson Reuters as a "Rising Star". (All that profiling and interviewing has made me wonder in the past, and I'm not surprised at all that this has happened. The company measures the impact factors, promotes them as meaningful, interviews journal editors who have found ways to raise theirs, which makes that important news because the people who sell impact factors say that it's important, and they have the press releases to prove it. I'm standing by my earlier comparison to the Franklin Mint. (And in case you're wondering, the fact that I'm citing my own blog on the topic of self-referentiality has not escaped me).

At any rate, I don't believe that any chemistry journals were on the banned list. The most interesting case was a group of journals that were deliberately citing each other, but I'll freely admit that I'd never heard of any of them, despite their best efforts to rise in the world. If anyone does have any evidence of citation oddities in the chemistry world, though, I'd be happy to help publicize them. . .

Comments (13) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Dark Side | The Scientific Literature


1. Yoshitaka Fujii on July 3, 2012 11:39 AM writes...

This looks like a good paragraph for MY blog. On another site. With less impact. I'll then put it on my CV. (rubs hands devilishly)

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2. QuitS on July 3, 2012 2:20 PM writes...

It is damaging to science if we (unfortunately) tell young scientists that impactors are more important than the quality of the works. No wonder that science is going down the strain. With the increase of impact factors, the impact of science is decreasing!

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3. startup on July 3, 2012 3:08 PM writes...

Ratings are like Ponzi schemes, they benefit only those who put them together. No exceptions.

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4. JE on July 3, 2012 4:04 PM writes...

With the increase in the number of more specialist journals surely comes also an increase in journal self-citation rates?

It is sometimes difficult however to distinguish specialist journals which fulfil a real need from those which are set up to fulfil the needs/grant proposals of closed cartels of academics working on things that are not so interesting (to others).

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5. newnickname on July 3, 2012 5:22 PM writes... / watch?v=K1lytua2dh4&

I cite myself
I want you to cite me
When my impact's down
I want you to restore me
I search myself
I want you to find me
I forget myself
I want you to remind me

I don't want anybody else
When I think about you
I cite myself
I don't want anybody else
Oh no, oh no, oh no

Many citations make me happy honey
You're the sun who makes me shine
When you're around I'm always laughing
I want to make you mine

I close my eyes
And see you before me
Think I would die
If Thomas-Reuters ignored me
A fool could see
Just how much I adore you
I get down on my knees
I'd do anything for you

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6. MoMo on July 3, 2012 6:20 PM writes...

Tis a sad day when citation factors mean more then the citation itself. The zombies of publishing are taking over and eating the brains of scientists worldwide now, and I speak with them slowly and assuredly at conferences now.

I tell them real clearly and concisely

"your days are numbered-think about a career in telemarketing"

And to the scientists and their bosses, institutions in academia that think citations are everything I also tell them

"your days are numbered-think about a career in telemarketing"

They both make the world a scary place.

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7. Dennis on July 3, 2012 7:36 PM writes...

#5: lyrics by The Butadienes?

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8. Boghog on July 4, 2012 1:58 AM writes...

#7: Or after the divinyls have been ultraviolated, the semibullvalenes: / wiki / Di-pi-methane_rearrangement

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9. matt on July 5, 2012 1:03 PM writes...

Could you supply a link for the Franklin Mint reference, to expand on which behavior you refer to?

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10. Anon on July 5, 2012 3:07 PM writes...

Do journal editors have such inflated heads that they think their "impact factor" is as incredible this?

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11. Hap on July 5, 2012 3:15 PM writes...

9: See the link rather after the Franklin Mint mention.

Self-reference isn't problematic here, though - you aren't assuming that your opinions are important and valid because you refer to them. On the other hand, a significant portion of the perceived importance of impact factors comes from the people who calculate them saying that they're important - the self-reference is a hidden way of saying that what's being referenced is important because they say it is.

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12. kevin on July 6, 2012 9:42 AM writes...

It happens on the materials end of chemistry too. I had one paper where the editors/reviewers accepted it and then suggested strongly a list of background references to be added. All referred to the journal in question. I declined as most had no relevance at all.

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13. newnickname on July 6, 2012 11:35 AM writes...

I would just like to draw your attention to my previous publication on this topic: newnickname, "I cite myself", In the Pipeline, July 3, 2012 5:22 PM.

(@7 Dennis and @8 Boghog: Good ones!)

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