Re: Full-Text Useage Statistics: Open Access vs. Firewalled

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_PRINCETON.EDU>
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 14:20:12 -0500

I would like to emphasize Jan's comment on the use and meaning of impact
factors. A numerical value like "2" has meaning only in comparison with
similar journals in similar fields. Indeed, to consider a journal of
lesser quality -- by any criterion -- only makes sense in the same
field. And, as Jan and others have pointed out elsewhere, impact factors
for review journals cannot reasonably be compared with those for the
primary research literature.

In a field such as genetics or cell biology, an impact factor of 2 is
only in the top 40%;
in marine biology it's in the top 10%.
In tropical medicine it's at the very top.
This does not in the least represent the relative scientific quality or
social value of the subjects, merely the pattern of publication and
citation in the subject.

I just checked, and in biochemistry my library has no journals with an
impact factor below 1, but we have a great many of them in fields like
general zoology or biogeography. The selection is based on local use,
not on global impact factors, which often do not reflect the material
needed here. Many of the areas of research of the scientists here are in
fields characterized by very infrequent citation.

I am not among those who think that only the highest quality work in a
subject is worthy of dissemination; I think all valid worthwhile
research should be generally available.
And BioMed Central should aim as high as possible, I share Jan's hope
that it will attain that rank.

>Jan Velterop wrote:

> David,

> Of course we need to work on the recognition of BioMed Central's quality. We
> are working hard on that and our journals are being monitored by ISI in
> order to build up an impact factor. However, it is good to keep an eye on
> the fact that the overwhelming bulk of scientific journals has a relatively
> low impact factor, and yet forms the mainstay of science communication
> (pedestrian perhaps, but that's the reality). You may not care much about
> 'lesser material' than first rate (although I bet you, too, subscribe to
> some journals with an impact factor of 2 or less), but you have to realise
> that you are reasoning from the very privileged position of an elite
> university. There are plenty of authors who care deeply that their
> contribution to knowledge is shared with the less privileged (those working
> on tropical diseases, for instance, see And there are plenty
> researchers in the field (working on tropical diseases in sub-Saharan
> Africa, for instance) who are happy with access to solid applied science,
> with or without impact factor. One of them once remarked to me, only
> half-jokingly, that the usefulness of scientific articles to him in the
> field was inversely proportional to the impact factor. Quality is a relative
> thing.
> Having said all that, we are at BioMed Central working, of course, on the
> credibility and quality perception of the material we publish. This takes
> time, but I strongly believe that what we are doing is worth doing, with or
> without sceptics.
> Best regards,
> Jan Velterop

David Goodman
Research Librarian
and Biological Science Bibliographer
Princeton University Library
Princeton, NJ 08544-0001
phone: 609-258-3235
fax: 609-258-2627
Received on Mon Jan 21 2002 - 19:41:02 GMT

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