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In today’s Guardian, eLife Editor-in-chief Randy Schekman calls for an end to the scientific community’s dependence on high-profile journals and their impact factors as a measure of the quality of research. His comments are released as he accepts the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with James Rothman and Thomas Südhoff, later today.
As eLife Editor-in-chief, Schekman has led a collaboration between research funders and practitioners to champion a new approach to identifying and promoting important discoveries. At eLife, working scientists assess and select papers for publication, and all science judged to be of the calibre and high standard that eLife requires is published in the journal; there are no print-based limitations. And, all content published in eLife is openly available for all to use and re-use for free. The journal is backed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust.
In the Guardian article, Schekman says professional rewards for working scientists, such as research grants and career progression, are too often tied to having work published in a small set of highly influential journals. The problem, he says, is that many of these journals publish in ways that benefit the selling of subscriptions rather than encouraging the most important research. “Like fashion designers who create limited edition handbags or suits, they know that scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept.” Schekman calls into question how luxury journals gain their exclusive edge through the impact factor, a measure of the average number of times a journal’s papers are cited in subsequent work. He argues that the impact factor is “a deeply flawed measure, pursuing which has become an end in itself.” He concludes:
“It is the quality of the science, not the journal's brand, that matters. Most importantly of all, we scientists need to take action. Like many successful researchers, I have published in the big brands, including the papers that won me the Nobel prize for medicine, which I will be honoured to collect tomorrow. But no longer. I have now committed my lab to avoiding luxury journals, and I encourage others to do likewise.”
Visit the Guardian online ( http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/09/how-journals-nature-science-cell-damage-science) for the full piece.
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eLife Sciences is a unique collaboration between the funders and practitioners of research to communicate ground-breaking discoveries in the life and biomedical sciences in the most effective way. The eLife journal is a platform for maximising the reach and influence of new discoveries and showcasing new approaches to the presentation, use, and assessment of research. As an open-access journal, eLife delivers access to content for free, online, immediately on publication, and will encourage maximum possible reach and utility of the content by publishing under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which is emerging as the gold standard for open-access publishing. eLife is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust. eLife Sciences is an original signatory of the Declaration on Research Assessment. Learn more at elifesciences.org.