Mind Games 2.0

Bloggin' 'bout science and life

Category: Scientific Publishing

American Naturalist Covers

(This post was first published on the AmNat150.org website)

The American Naturalist was first published in March 1867. Over the last 150 years, AmNat has had 16 different covers. Below is a gallery of those covers, with the dates they were used. Click on any image to bring up the full-sized gallery.

AmNat 1867-1875

Picture 1 of 18

The cover of the first issue in March 1867. This cover design was used through 1875.

One of the fascinating features to trace through the covers is how the motto of the journal changed through the years.

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Do Scientists Really Need Certificates Of Participation Just To Do Their Jobs Now?

Today I was submitting a review of a manuscript to a British scientific journal.  This is a routine part of any scientist’s job.  Participating in the peer review system is probably the most important community activity that keeps science working.  Peer review is the best part of the scientific process.  

I went to the journal’s website to submit my review as always.  What startled and exacerbated me, and what sparked this post, was the first question I was asked at the submission website.  The journal wanted to know if I wanted my reviewing activity to be noted for all the world to see on Publons.  

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Valuable Advice About Editing And Teaching In General

Posted by The Baltimore Sun on Thursday, September 8, 2016

This is hugely valuable advice.  If one is to teach what students need to know, one really has to just simply do it!

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Scientific Publishing Metrics & The Associated Social Media Are OUT OF CONTROL!

You know you’re an old fart when you start writing blog posts like the one I’m about to write.  This morning I woke up to a collection of e-mails from various publishers about what a fantastic researcher I am and how successful all my papers are.

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Support Your Scientific Society Journals

Why do scientific journals need to advertise – particularly to scientists?

My inbox has been flooded in the last 2 weeks with advertisements from Elsevier, Cell Press, Wiley-Blackwell, PLoS, etc., about the 2011 Impact Factors for their journals. WTF??  Why do they need to advertise to me?

Oh right, they want me to submit papers to their journal.  What do I get for this?  It must be impact – that must be why they are advertising primarily with their impact factors.

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Want to increase your Impact Factor?

I’ve been the Editor-in-Chief of the American Naturalist for four years, and so impact factors have been a small but not insignificant consideration in my life for a while.  For 150 years, scientific journals lived by the reputations they garnered with the general scientific community.  Everyone knew the pecking order of journals in their field.  Given that people making funding decisions at granting agencies were run by the leading scientists in these disciplines, external justification for the quality of publications were unnecessary.  Scientists could also articulate that rank order to their colleagues and to administrators for promotion and tenure decisions in evaluating their junior colleagues.

However, in the last 10-15 years scientists and science administrators have abdicated these responsibilities to non-scientists and thus to the use of “quantitative” metrics, such as the impact factor.  (On the individual scale, see the H-index).  On its face, this seems like a much more rational, reasonable and responsible way to evaluate the quality of a scientific journal than the opinions of people. We’re scientists. Why wouldn’t we value numbers over opinion?

The reason is that once such metrics are in place and enormous weight is given to their values, the natural incentives kick in, and the games begin.  Some games are legitimate but make the metric irrelevant, some games are questionable, some are just plain silly, and some are simply unethical.  All are changing the fundamental nature of science and scientific publishing because of the perverse incentives these quantitative metrics create (see here and here for just two examples).  Here I want to enumerate some of the more obvious ways that many journals inflate their impact factors, and comment on each. 

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So you want to be a great reviewer

In my current position as Editor-in-Chief of the American Naturalist, I read all kinds of reviews of scientific papers from all kinds of people. I routinely get asked, particularly by graduate students, what makes a good review. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

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New Authors and Rejection

A few weeks ago, I was on a panel of Editors that was answering questions from scientists about how scientific papers are published, and giving advice to help authors. This happened at the joint, American Society of Naturalist/Society for the Study of Evolution/Society of Systematic Biologists meeting in Moscow, Idaho. One of the most fascinating parts of this conversation was the degree to which new authors think that the system is stacked against them or that their “enemies” are all reviewing their papers and having them rejected.

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