This is a very revealing article by Gautam Naik that appeared in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago. It vividly shows how both journal publishers and scholars can game the system and misuse the “impact-factor ranking” to their own advantage. In fact, the article seems to sum up the main elements of the issue when it observes that although the IF is “a ubiquitous tool for assessing scientific merit” that is “a job it wasn’t designed to do, and now it is open to manipulation.” In short, there is growing concern that “some journals’ impact factor is artificially inflated by excessive citations.” Of course, the realization that IF “guides promotions, tenure decisions and funding committees” around the world makes it even more troubling. Reinforcing it’s main contentions, the article quotes Phil Davis’ Scholarly Kitchen post that offers some pretty damning facts and statistics. Phil’s observations about unusual citation patterns and their effects provide a specific example of possible/probable manipulation. (By the way, Phil has also made some great presentations at the Charleston Conference.)
Originally this article was only available to subscribers at the WSJ website or via the ProQuest WSJ newspaper database. But in double checking this morning we discovered that it is now available as free sample of exclusive subscriber content. The link is provided above so check it out.