We started Cureus to address the many problems in medical publishing. One of the easy targets is Impact Factor (IF). The Wall Street Journal recently took a closer look at impact-factor ranking and how it is used as a metric for assessing scientific merit.

According to the WSJ, “The impact factor (IF), is routinely used by researchers in deciding where to publish and what to read. It guides promotions, tenure decisions and funding committees around the world, who assume someone publishing in a high-
impact journal must be doing superior work.” – WSJ

The IF has become artificially inflated as the reviewers for high IF journals are expected to critique incoming manuscripts with tremendous scrutiny and be highly selective (read: judgmental?) when it comes to ultimately accepting a manuscript. Hence, high IF journals tend to have their editorial board members (and their students and their close
friends) submit their own works (which of course are accepted). Bias?

The Wall Street Journal points out that “The IF is easily gamed, too. One in five academics in economics, sociology, psychology and business said they had been asked by editors to pad their papers with unnecessary citations to articles in the same journal, according to a study published in Science in February.”

It has become such a nefarious cycle of IF inflation, rejection rate inflation of those who are not “members of the club,” and acceptance rate inflation for those with the secret password for entrance.

The Wall Street Journal continues: “The broader worry is that the once-obscure yardstick is now a ubiquitous tool for assessing scientific merit — a job it wasn’t designed to do, and whose use is open to manipulation.”

Cureus has a star-studded multi-disciplinary international Editorial Board made up of some of the most prolific authors and accomplished practitioners in their specialties, coming together to knock traditional IF on its head and create a system where peer-review is actually done by peers with the sole intention of getting papers out there for the whole world to access. And in the process reviewers are neither killing the manuscripts nor the morales of the authors!

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