Inspired by a visit from 2013 Nobel prize winner Randy Schekman, my colleague Kif and I have written down a few thoughts on Impact Factors in science. Traditionally, the impact factor of a scientific journal reflects how often recently published articles have been cited by scientists in other papers. In other words: the impact these articles have on the scientific community. While this is a good way to distinguish relevant and influential literature from poorly done, insignificant science, it is not without flaws. What’s worse, these days many recruiters and funding bodies tend to focus only on impact factors when evaluating scientists they want to support or hire. This means they might not even look at a researcher’s actual work but only at the impact factor of the journals he or she published in. The flaw in this assessment is obvious.
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