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It's flame bait alright and I'm swallowing it hook, line and sinker, just as last time oneeye.png These guys over there just always manage to press all my buttons devilmad.png

So what's going on? The blog of the Association for Scholarly Publishing seems to be in PLoS One bashing mode these days. This time with a post about the new Impact Factor (IF) for PLoS One. There has already been quite some discussion going on away from the original post (as nobody with scientific credentials seems to be inclined to post comments there anymore). The two people reading my blog (hi Mom! grin.png) know my position on IFs. Those who don't can read here or here. The central sentence of the piece over at the Scholarly Kitchen is actually a question:
So how can a journal that allows 7 out of 10 manuscripts through their gate achieve such a stellar rating?
Asking this question can entail a few things:
  1. The author doesn't know how left-skewed data affect the arithmetic mean (see any statistics textbook).
  2. The author doesn't know how the IF is 'calculated' (see links above).
  3. The author doesn't know that there is little/no correlation between pre-publication selection and IF (BMJ 1997).
  4. The author does know all this, but thinks his readers don't know any of the above.
Given that the author after his question goes on to speculate wildly about some unrelated ramblings having little or nothing to do with the real world of scientific publishing in general or with PLoS One in particular, it seems that 1-3 seem the most obvious candidates. If the author were aware of any one of these facts, he would not go on for several paragraphs on some completely unrelated musings, but register the IF and shrug - which is what any sensible person with the least amount of knowledge of the area would do. Which, probably not coincidentally, is exactly what PLoS intends to do, rather than "launching PLoS TWO" as the author suggests, in a more blatant display of incompetence in all matters scholarly publishing than the silly question (and indeed the entire post) already constitutes.
A small hint for those who actually read below the fold: IFs correlate with the number of papers published. This is no surprise as the chances of getting a high-citation paper increase with the number of papers and not with any suposed 'selectivity'. Given the skewedness of citation data, citations (the numerator) accumulate faster than the number of papers in a single journal (the denominator) and hence the correlation. PLoS One is on its way to become the largest journal of the world and hence, over the long run, it's IF would increase, if the IFs weren't deprecated before then.

The whole question is just so inane! The IFs are so entirely bogus and useless that the question in the TSK post is like asking for the scientific basis of intelligent falling or if Adam had a navel.


Posted on Tuesday 22 June 2010 - 14:50:22 comment: 0
impact factor   scholarly kitchen   PLoS One   scientific publishing   

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