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Citation metrics and Impact Factors fail as measures of scientific quality, in particular in taxonomy, and are biased by biological disciplin and by geographic and taxonomic factors

Tyler, Torbjörn LU (2018) In Annales Botanici Fennici 55. p.185-191
Abstract (Swedish)
Based on the experience of the author and analyses of citation frequences of papers published in various biological journals, the use of citation counts and journal Impact Factors as a measure of scientific quality is discussed. It is concluded that citation frequency differ not only among biological sub-disciplines such as ecology and taxonomy, but also among taxonomic papers on highly similar topics, and that these latter differences largely depend on organismal group (cryptogams vs vascular plants and species-rich vs small genera and families) and geographic region concerned. As a result, journals with a broad biological scope face difficulties to compete in terms of Impact Factors, and thus to compete for the best manuscripts, with... (More)
Based on the experience of the author and analyses of citation frequences of papers published in various biological journals, the use of citation counts and journal Impact Factors as a measure of scientific quality is discussed. It is concluded that citation frequency differ not only among biological sub-disciplines such as ecology and taxonomy, but also among taxonomic papers on highly similar topics, and that these latter differences largely depend on organismal group (cryptogams vs vascular plants and species-rich vs small genera and families) and geographic region concerned. As a result, journals with a broad biological scope face difficulties to compete in terms of Impact Factors, and thus to compete for the best manuscripts, with journals specialised on particular sub-disciplines that attract many citations. However, since papers on ”hot” topics also tend to be short-lived, these differences, at least in part, would by much reduced if citatons were counted over longer periods of time or if compensated based on the average age of cited references in the relevant field. In particular in taxonomy, factors such as originality and innovativeness, generally regarded as measures of scientific quality, appear to be inversely correlated with citation frequency. It is concluded that scientific editors would be able to significantly increase the Impact Factors of taxonomic journals, not by choosing the most scientificaly valuable and supreme submissions for publication, but by picking manuscripts based the taxonomic belonging and geographic distribution of the organisms concerned. Still, the author sincerely hopes that no editor will ever take such measures! (Less)
Abstract
Based on my experience and analyses of citation frequencies of papers published in various biological journals, I discuss the use of citation counts and journal Impact Factors as measures of scientific quality. I conclude that citation frequency differs not only among biological sub-disciplines such as ecology and taxonomy, but also among taxonomic papers on highly similar topics, and that these latter differences largely depend on the organismal group (cryptogams vs. vascular plants and species-rich vs small genera and families) and the geographic region concerned. As a result, journals with a broad biological scope face difficulties in competing in terms of Impact Factors, and thus in competing for the best manuscripts, with journals... (More)
Based on my experience and analyses of citation frequencies of papers published in various biological journals, I discuss the use of citation counts and journal Impact Factors as measures of scientific quality. I conclude that citation frequency differs not only among biological sub-disciplines such as ecology and taxonomy, but also among taxonomic papers on highly similar topics, and that these latter differences largely depend on the organismal group (cryptogams vs. vascular plants and species-rich vs small genera and families) and the geographic region concerned. As a result, journals with a broad biological scope face difficulties in competing in terms of Impact Factors, and thus in competing for the best manuscripts, with journals specialized on particular sub-disciplines that attract many citations. However, since papers on “hot” topics also tend to be short-lived, these differences, at least in part, would be much reduced if citations were counted for longer periods of time or were compensated based on the average age of cited papers in the particular field. In particular in taxonomy, factors such as originality and innovativeness, generally regarded as measures of scientific quality, appear to be inversely correlated with citation frequency. I, therefore, conclude that scientific editors would be able to significantly increase the Impact Factors of taxonomic journals, not by choosing for publication the most scientifically valuable and supreme articles, but by picking manuscripts based the taxonomic position and geographic distribution of the organisms concerned. Still, the author sincerely hopes that no editor will ever take such measures! (Less)
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organization
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Contribution to journal
publication status
published
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in
Annales Botanici Fennici
volume
55
pages
7 pages
publisher
Finnish Zoological and Botanical Publishing Board
external identifiers
  • scopus:85046894055
ISSN
0003-3847
DOI
10.5735/085.055.0123
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
4b87d3f3-486b-41c1-83d4-803cc6012fb3
alternative location
http://www.sekj.org/PDF/anb55-free/anb55-185-191-free.pdf
date added to LUP
2018-04-20 10:56:27
date last changed
2019-06-19 03:53:37
@article{4b87d3f3-486b-41c1-83d4-803cc6012fb3,
  abstract     = {Based on my experience and analyses of citation frequencies of papers published in various biological journals, I discuss the use of citation counts and journal Impact Factors as measures of scientific quality. I conclude that citation frequency differs not only among biological sub-disciplines such as ecology and taxonomy, but also among taxonomic papers on highly similar topics, and that these latter differences largely depend on the organismal group (cryptogams vs. vascular plants and species-rich vs small genera and families) and the geographic region concerned. As a result, journals with a broad biological scope face difficulties in competing in terms of Impact Factors, and thus in competing for the best manuscripts, with journals specialized on particular sub-disciplines that attract many citations. However, since papers on “hot” topics also tend to be short-lived, these differences, at least in part, would be much reduced if citations were counted for longer periods of time or were compensated based on the average age of cited papers in the particular field. In particular in taxonomy, factors such as originality and innovativeness, generally regarded as measures of scientific quality, appear to be inversely correlated with citation frequency. I, therefore, conclude that scientific editors would be able to significantly increase the Impact Factors of taxonomic journals, not by choosing for publication the most scientifically valuable and supreme articles, but by picking manuscripts based the taxonomic position and geographic distribution of the organisms concerned. Still, the author sincerely hopes that no editor will ever take such measures! },
  author       = {Tyler, Torbjörn},
  issn         = {0003-3847},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {185--191},
  publisher    = {Finnish Zoological and Botanical Publishing Board},
  series       = {Annales Botanici Fennici},
  title        = {Citation metrics and Impact Factors fail as measures of scientific quality, in particular in taxonomy, and are biased by biological disciplin and by geographic and taxonomic factors},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.5735/085.055.0123},
  volume       = {55},
  year         = {2018},
}