Friday, June 21, 2013

Measuring publishing impact

Article specific metrics.
The newest and first female editor in chief for Science magazine provided her insights on Scientific publishing to the current AAAS fellows.  One of the suggestions was article specific metrics. PLoS has embraced article metrics - how many views, how many downloads, etc.  In many ways, this is great! I love more data! The articles stand for themselves. Unfortunately, it's not quite that easy from where I'm sitting.
This leather-covered journal will impress the writers on your list.
At the end of the day the journal still matters and early career scientists may be at a huge disadvantage.
Part of a journal's impact is its reach and readership. Some journals are more likely to read than another. Sure, with online search capabilities this has lessened. You can search and find articles in thousands of journals that wouldn't have been found back in the dark ages in the stacks. However, I still get Science and pursue the magazine. I also subscribe to get an email blast with the newest table of contents for my favorite journals. I know and trust these journals. I know their review process is robust... having been slammed by it before. The journal still matters.

So to the individual article metrics... Obviously the best journals will have higher metrics. Many of these journals, including Science, get press coverage that helps to push statistics. Different sectors have different audiences... With different sizes and citation rates. Take the large and fast paced biomedical sciences compared to geology. As an early career scientist, my completely heliocentric view is that article metrics open the system to more popularity contests and potentially work against new people breaking in.

Where will this go? Can we find a middle ground?  Metrics that combine both the journals reputation and a sector adjusted article metric...
Which metrics do you prefer?