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Science's Editor in Chief and "Friends" Discuss Peer Review and Journal Impact.

Mike Ciavarella's picture

Science's Editor in Chief and "Friends" Discuss Peer Review and Journal
(July 4, 2008)

Alberts1, Brooks Hanson2
and Katrina L. Kelner3 collaborated to write this
week's Science editorial on peer review. And if for no other reason
than the weekly has one of the highest impact ratings, when Science
speaks science administrators listen.


The editorial troika open axiomatically: "Peer review, in which experts in the
field scrutinize and critique scientific results prior to publication, is
fundamental to scientific progress." However, they follow with an immediate
caveat: "Despite its successes, peer review attracts its share of criticism.
Reviewers can exhibit bias or only support expected, pedestrian results. They
can be overtaxed, uninformed, or ask for unnecessary experiments..."


There follows a discussion of what's needed to improve peer review. We are
reminded that these guys know whereof they speak: "At Science, we read
thousands of reviews and author responses each year," and they do not consider
"the system... to be irretrievably broken; [it] continues to serve science
well... [but] papers today are more interdisciplinary, use more techniques, and
have more authors [adding to the difficulties of reviewers].


"Finally, and perhaps most important, authors, reviewers, and journal editors
should keep in mind the ultimate goal of scholarly scientific publishing to
advance our understanding of the natural world. Competition among labs and
personal striving for excellence are forces that can be harnessed to accelerate
our progress. But in excess these factors can be impediments. The scientific
community must collectively ensure that the peer review process continues to
serve the loftier goals of our enterprise, which ultimately benefits us all."


The three editors also refer to a letter in this week's journal from Martin
Raff, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Biology, University College


Professor Raff says: "[T]hese are stressful times for many biomedical
scientists, because competition for grant support, jobs, and publishing in the
most prestigious journals is accelerating. The stress associated with publishing
experimental results [can be] a process that can take as long as obtaining the
results in the first place... One problem with the current publication process
arises from the overwhelming importance given to papers published in high-impact
journals such as Science. Sadly, career advancement can depend more on
where you publish than what you publish."


Between Science's editors and Professor Raff they raise issues which
ought to be considered by all those who are concerned with foisting an ERA
(Excellence in Research for Australia) on the Australian academic community.


While the lag time between concluding research for a publication and its actual
publication can be, and often is, lengthy the additional time between
publication and secondary consideration by an ERA system can border on the


In addition the obsession of journal impact is clearly worrisome not only to
Professor Raff but to the editors of Science as well.


Senator Carr as Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research could
exert a powerful influence for good by fostering improvements in the public
research funding bodies' peer review systems, thereby radically improving
research funding. But of course in doing so he will be loosening the leash on
the research sector.



1Bruce Alberts is the Editor-in-Chief of Science.

2Brooks Hanson is Deputy Editor for physical sciences at Science.

3Katrina L. Kelner is Deputy Editor for life sciences at Science.


Mike Ciavarella's picture


The Sixth International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication will be held September 10-12, 2009 in Vancouver


Peer Review Congress

Photos courtesy of Tourism Vancouver

Sixth International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication
will be held September 10-12, 2009 in Vancouver. As with the previous
Congresses, our aim will be to improve the quality and credibility of
biomedical peer review and publication and to help advance the
efficiency, effectiveness, and equitability of the dissemination of
biomedical information throughout the world.

See the Call for Research and formal announcement for more information about the Sixth Peer Review Congress.

Start your research now! See Suggested Research Topics and Previous Congresses for examples of previously presented research.

Updated June 2008.


In fact most of researchers know disadvantages of peer review and also citation system. many of them have papers with lower quality published in journals with better impact factor. and also with more citation.

but there is no alternative way for qualifying papers and authors, people are tired of using number of papers  and when someone suggested the "citation" and "impact factor" everybody interested. many authors know it is too misleading. but now we need a way to measure quaility better . have you any idea?

I am sure that citation is better methodology than "Number of papers" or "Name of University" but it still has problems. 

Every Quality factor measures quality good at first. but people learn how to crack it after a while. For example publishing a paper was a good quality measure at first. people thaught they should do something valuable, when they wanted to publish a paper but then they learnt they can publish a paper more easily. even they invented a software to publish papers. they can change some parameters and publish many new papers,  they could use their relations to publish a paper. citation was also good for the first time, authors tried to do valuable works to get citations and many of them do it know. there exists many highly cited papers with very good quality, but after a while they found they can do something in a crowded area and get citation even more. or using special keywords and exciting presentation and do many other things more influential than quality. new filters should be found now.even if  we invent a new filter i am sure people will learn how to crack it, it is just a virus and antivirus game. (of course many of these dont happen intentionally. people just adapt themselves with system to do things more easily)





Mike Ciavarella's picture


   you spend a lot of energy in this question of measuring quality.  I am worried that you could use the same energy to write papers to improve your career, be careful ....

    Anyway, h-index is quite good, and you could for example invent some automatic script to do the entire imechanica.  Check these for Google Scholar which is a little less precise than ISI but still an indication


in middle east people use number of papers which is
redicolous. authors change their papers and send them to many journals to
getting acceptance. citation is very better in that position. 

even if we want to use bibliometric data to evaluate
quality there are many ways more rational than citation. graphs are developed to
model such systems.

for a constant number of citations, h factor is maximum when
citations diagram be near a -45 deg line.

in many disciplines and research systems it is like that and in
many other it is not. it may be suitable for you  and unsuitable for
many others (50%-50%).

it also depends on taste, do you prefer 3 papers with
120 citation or 8 papers with 30 citation! which is better?.it depends on policy of institute. 

if we want to rely on citation metrics available in!

then normalization of citation diagram with a function
of time is better.

we put our photograph in imechanica by 100 kb file, how we want to show all of efforts of one person with a single number between 0-100000? use rar?




I am going to develop something better based on more strict mathematical models. how can i access to in a code?


Mike Ciavarella's picture

michele ciavarella

Mike Ciavarella's picture

on matlab version 7.0 it works but gives hindex=0 neither on 7.1 "internet connection failed" --- I will try on version 6.5 ....

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