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Jeremy Green from King's College London writes in this week's issue of Science, in response to Kai Simons' editorial:
K. Simons's Editorial "The misused impact factor" (10 October, p. 165) reminded me of the Tolstoy story in which his brother tells him not to think about a white bear: When you say, "Don't think about it," it becomes hard to think of anything else. Instead, AAAS and Science should take the lead by defining some declarative "bibliometric postulates" that specify a code of conduct for the use of simplified indices. Postulates might include "numerical factors applied to journals should not be used to evaluate individuals" or "numerical journal factors should never be quoted without disclaimers explaining that they include falsified papers." Only an organization like Science with the backing of the non-commercially beholden AAAS has the profile to defend itself and scientists from enslavement to the impact factor's absurdly one-dimensional parameterization of achievement.
The sad thing is that especially the use of a journal-level metric such as Thomson's Impact Factor to evaluate individual scientists is so obviously wrong on so many levels that a statement to this extent should be about as necessary as a disclaimer "not for consumption" on a package of fishing hooks. This still holds even if the BIF were a valid metric, which, of course, it is not. Apparently, now the situation has gotten so out of hand in some places that scientists feel compelled to ask Science for help to encourage the dissemination of statements of the obvious even among scientists. How much worse will it get, before things start to change?
Posted on Friday 05 December 2008 - 16:21:51 comment: 0

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