In a report dated June 12, 2008, the International Mathematical Union (IMU), in cooperation with the International Council of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM) and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), express concern about overreliance on journal impact factors in decisions about library subscriptions and granting of tenure.
From the report's Executive Summary:
Using citation data to assess research ultimately means using citationâ€?based statistics to rank thingsâ€”journals, papers, people, programs, and disciplines. The statistical tools used to rank these things are often misunderstood and misused.
â€¢ For journals, the impact factor is most often used for ranking. This is a simple average derived from the distribution of citations for a collection of articles in the journal. The average captures only a small amount of information about that distribution, and it is a rather crude statistic. In addition, there are many confounding factors when judging journals by citations, and any comparison of journals requires caution when using impact factors. Using the impact factor alone to judge a journal is like using weight alone to judge a person's health.
â€¢ For papers, instead of relying on the actual count of citations to compare individual papers, people frequently substitute the impact factor of the journals in which the papers appear. They believe that higher impact factors must mean higher citation counts. But this is often not the case! This is a pervasive misuse of statistics that needs to be challenged whenever and wherever it occurs.
â€¢ For individual scientists, complete citation records can be difficult to compare. As a consequence, there have been attempts to find simple statistics that capture the full complexity of a scientist's citation record with a single number. The most notable of these is the hâ€?index, which seems to be gaining in popularity. But even a casual inspection of the hâ€?index and its variants shows that these are naÃ¯ve attempts to understand complicated citation records. While they capture a small amount of information about the distribution of a scientist's citations, they lose crucial information that is essential for the assessment of research.
The Wall Street Journal, in a June 16 article covering the report, gives an example from the authors' field:
Mathematicians are particularly vulnerable to quirks in the impact factor, Mr. Ewing said, noting that his colleagues are more likely to cite older work â€” while impact factors use citations within two years of publication â€” and that in general they cite much less than other scientists. â€œSome dean somewhere in a small university might conclude biologists are six times as smart as mathematicians,â€? Mr. Ewing said, adding that it makes about as much sense as ranking peopleâ€™s popularity by the number of people whose hands theyâ€™ve shaken.
From SPARC's June 10 press release:
The Create Change Web site emphasizes the rapid and irreversible changes occurring in the ways faculty share and use academic research results. The site outlines how the advancement of knowledge is fueled by accelerating and enhancing sharing - of journal articles, research data, simulations, syntheses, analyses and other findings. Create Change offers faculty practical ways to look out for their own interests as researchers and delivers the personal perspectives of scholars in 10 different disciplines, from music therapy to chemistry to microbiology, on the benefits of sharing. New interviews are added regularly.
Comments are drawn from full-length interviews published on the Create Change Web site at http://www.createchange.org and target the advantages of depositing works in a digital repository, the ways communication should change in the digital environment, the impact of Open Access and how to maximize scientific progress.
* Linda Hutcheon, Professor of English, University of Toronto
* David Morrison, Professor of Mathematics and Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara
* Carolyn Kenny, Professor of Human Development and Indigenous Studies, Antioch University
* Gary Ward, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Vermont
* Gordon Henry Guyatt, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Ontario
* Roy Rosenzweig, former Professor of History and New Media, George Mason University
* Martin Osborne, Professor of Economics, University of Toronto
* Leslie Pack Kaelbling, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
* Zhigang Suo, Professor of Mechanics and Materials, Harvard University
* R. Stephen Berry, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemistry and the James Franck Institute, University of Chicago
Moved, that the University Senate
1. Endorse the report of the task force on academic freedom and scholarly communication; and ask appropriate university units to implement the specific recommendations contained in the report, and
2. Strongly recommend that all UO faculty members attach an author's addendum to any copyright transfer they sign for their scholarly work.
Thanks to JQ Johnson (Director of Scholarly Communications and Instructional Support for the University of Oregon Libraries) for the alert and for this summary of the task force report endorsed by the Senate:
The implementation report contains a number of specific recommendations, including an expectation that the detailed rights faculty members need will vary by discipline but will typically include adequate rights to self-archive in the UO's institutional repository. The report also suggests that authors begin the process of negotiating with their publishers by using the Science Commons "delayed access" addendum.