Impacted science: Impact is not importance

  • Casadevall A
  • Fang F
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Abstract

The journal impact factor (IF) exerts a tremendous influence on the conduct of scientists. The obsession with IF has been compared to a medical condition, sometimes referred to as "IF mania" or "impactitis." Here, we analyze the difference between impact and importance, using examples from the history of science to show that these are not equivalent. If impact does not necessarily equal importance, but scientists are focused on high-impact work, there is a danger that misuse of the IF may adversely affect scientific progress. We suggest five measures to fight this malady: (i) diversify journal club selections, (ii) do not judge science on the publication venue, (iii) reduce the reliance on journal citation metrics for employment and advancement, (iv) discuss the misuse of the IF in ethics courses, and (v) cite the most appropriate sources. If IF mania is indeed a medical condition, the most appropriate course of action may be disimpaction.

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Authors

  • Arturo Casadevall

  • Ferric C. Fang

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