WSJ claims STM journals rig impact factors
The Wall Street Journal published an article on Monday claiming that science journals routinely manipulate impact factors by encouraging contributors to cite heavily prior articles from the same journals. (The link goes to a login-free copy of the article as found on the Stay Free! blog.)
Now, I think it’s true that because many journals tend to be highly specialized in the sorts of articles they publish that there will be a natural tendency for authors to use and cite a good number of articles from the same publications. But this article in the Wall Street Journal isn’t simply drawing a conclusion from the number of citations to a journal’s own articles. It is reporting on authors’ experiences with editors who ask for more citations to their journals as a condition of publication. It also includes an editor’s candid description of this phenomenon.
Isn’t it interesting and somehow a little odd that this is coming up in the Wall Street Journal? “Impact factor” is a term you don’t often see in a daily newspaper. Perhaps this problem has been studied elsewhere (please comment with cites if you have them), but this article isn’t just a digest of another study. The article’s author, Sharon Begley, interviewed a good number of authors and scholarly journal editors in preparing her story for WSJ. What she says is important. I would like to see the issue discussed as directly and frankly in the Chronicle of Higher Education, but I’m not holding my breath. (Okay, point me to the citation…)