Every issue that our society faces is like a link of a chain
Even the numerous suggestions here as to how IFs could be refined or calculated more accurately, will still reveal nothing as to the quality of an individual scientific publication or the standing of its authors. The bottom line is that if you want to judge the merit of a piece of work, you actually have to put in a bit of effort and read the paper.
Sick of Impact Factors | Reciprocal Space
The old guard may be shaking their heads and murmuring darkly about gaming of any system that tries to capture the web-chatter sparked by new research. But they shouldn’t be so concerned. Any working scientist will have experienced the thrill of hearing exciting new findings reported at a conference where results do not need to be wrapped between the covers of a particular journal for their significance to be appreciated. All it takes is for people to gather together in the coffee break and talk. The web allows something akin that process to be energised on a daily basis; if we tap in online as the community of scientists downloads and flags up the papers of greatest interest to them, we could recover a sense of the worth of the scientific literature (and the efforts behind it) that is factual rather than fictional.
I think we should all make a concerted effort to speak-out about this a bit more. I and provoked some good responses from a palaeontology community mailing-list . Initially I felt a bit bad for critiquing an otherwise well-meaning initiative to list all the journals in our field – but ranking them all by impact factor just seemed like an awfully bad ‘improvement’ to me.