Systematic differences in impact across publication tracks at PNAS

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Background: Citation data can be used to evaluate the editorial policies and procedures of scientific journals. Here we investigate citation counts for the three different publication tracks of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). This analysis explores the consequences of differences in editor and referee selection, while controlling for the prestige of the journal in which the papers appear. Methodology/Principal Findings: We find that papers authored and ''Contributed'' by NAS members (Track III) are on average cited less often than papers that are ''Communicated'' for others by NAS members (Track I) or submitted directly via the standard peer review process (Track II). However, we also find that the variance in the citation count of Contributed papers, and to a lesser extent Communicated papers, is larger than for direct submissions. Therefore when examining the 10% most-cited papers from each track, Contributed papers receive the most citations, followed by Communicated papers, while Direct submissions receive the least citations. Conclusion/Significance: Our findings suggest that PNAS ''Contributed'' papers, in which NAS-member authors select their own reviewers, balance an overall lower impact with an increased probability of publishing exceptional papers. This analysis demonstrates that different editorial procedures are associated with different levels of impact, even within the same prominent journal, and raises interesting questions about the most appropriate metrics for judging an editorial policy's success. © 2009 Rand, Pfeiffer.




Rand, D. G., & Pfeiffer, T. (2009). Systematic differences in impact across publication tracks at PNAS. PLoS ONE, 4(12).

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