Recent news in journals

Have you missed the recent hubub about Frontiers? Neuroconscience has this to say:

Lately it seems like the rising tide is going against Frontiers. Originally hailed as a revolutionary open-access publishing model, the publishing group has been subject to intense criticism in recent years. Recent issues include being placed on Beall’s controversial ‘predatory publisher list‘, multiple high profile disputes at the editorial level, and controversy over HIV and vaccine denialist articles published in the journal seemingly without peer review. As a proud author of two Frontiers articles and former frequent reviewer, these issues compounded with a general poor perception of the journal recently lead me to stop all publication activities at Frontiers outlets…

And this from the comments:

My husband, who is in math, had an entirely different experience. He was asked to be an *editor* in a field where he has just one paper. He explained that it’s not really his field – so far so good. The response of Frontiers? Won’t you please please still consider being an editor? This is just bad. If he had accepted (and people do accept all sorts of things for career advancement), he wouldn’t have been in a position to adequately judge the quality of the incoming papers or reviews.

In broader journal news, there is a blog post up at Frontiers about impact factor with this cool chart:


Obviously the journals do not get the same set of submissions so in a sense this has severe selection bias.

Bjorn Brembs has been on a roll about journals and brought up something that I had no idea about: journals can, to a certain extent, negotiate their impact factor!

One of the first accounts to show how a single journal accomplished this feat were Baylis et al. in 1999 with their example of FASEB journal managing to convince the ISI to remove their conference abstracts from the denominator, leading to a jump in its impact factor from 0.24 in 1988 to 18.3 in 1989. Another well-documented case is that of Current Biology whose impact factor increased by 40% after acquisition by Elsevier in 2001. To my knowledge the first and so far only openly disclosed case of such negotiations was PLoS Medicine’s editorial about their negotiations with Thomson Reuters in 2006, where the negotiation range spanned 2-11 (they settled for 8.4). Obviously, such direct evidence of negotiations is exceedingly rare and usually publishers are quick to point out that they never would be ‘negotiating’ with Thomson Reuters, they would merely ask them to ‘correct’ or ‘adjust’ the impact factors of their journals to make them more accurate. Given that already Moed and van Leeuwen found that most such corrections seemed to increase the impact factor, it appears that these corrections only take place if a publisher considers their IF too low and only very rarely indeed if the IF may appear too high (and who would blame them?).

Keeping up with the scientific Joneses

It’s really hard to find relevant articles in the morass of papers that are out there. xcorr has an excellent post up detailing recommendations on how to keep up with the scientific literature:

To do good research, you have to be well-informed of the latest scientific developments both in your narrow field of study and in science at large. I recommend the following workflow to make this as painless as possible:

  • Use feedly to keep up-to-date with blogs, journals
  • Use PubChase to get personalized paper recommendations
  • Use Zotero to organize papers you read
  • Use PaperShip to read and comment on papers on your iPad

Here’s a more detailed exposition, along with further resources and alternatives, to help you keep up the scientific literature.

I currently just use feedly, which means every wednesday/thursday I am flooded with articles (I think I subscribe to ~20 different journal feeds?), and every day brings new and relatively useless articles from a few static pubmed rss feeds. It sounds like I need to get started using PubChase!