Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Chinese Chemist Issues a Wake-up Call

The country's administrators tend to judge the quality of scientific research solely by journal impact factors, Wang says. Articles published in journals with a high impact factor are considered excellent. Research proposals — and the referees who evaluate them — are judged based on the impact factor of previous publications, and salaries are calculated using information on the impact factor of published work.

This is a "very crude approach" to evaluating scientific research, says Wang. One problem is that impact factors measure how frequently the average paper is cited in a particular period, so the more popular the research area the easier it is to achieve a high impact factor.

"If a high impact factor is the only goal of chemistry research, then chemistry is no longer science. It is changed to a field of fame and game," he writes.

That's from this SciDev.Net summary of the letter in Nature by Nai-Xing Wang, professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. [free registration required for the second link].