Students and postdoctoral fellows still feel that publishing in one of the very elite journals is essential to their success. Why is this so? It’s primarily because scientists who sit on funding and hiring panels are easily wowed by candidates who do publish in the top journals. Looking at the name of a journal gives panel members an excuse to be lazy and not read the paper itself. Each of us has to be the judge of scientific significance, and we must not forget that elite journals tend to seek out trendy science – and simply refuse to make additional space for the broad array of elegant analysis and the diversity of outstanding discoveries that might be submitted to them. That’s OK; trendy science sells magazines, but a lot of excellence can be found elsewhere.
Attention evaluators: When reading a curriculum vitae, do not rely solely on journal names; please look more closely at the work and judge its impact for yourself. Hiring and grant panelists often are asked to evaluate science (or scientists) outside of their particular research areas. Authors and applicants always must make especially clear why their findings are important both to those working within a particular area and to all biochemists and molecular biologists. How did this work change thinking in the field or answer a longstanding question? At every opportunity, we must all explain, with clarity, the importance of our science. The simple act of highlighting a project’s significance will guide our focus toward the most important questions that need to be addressed in biochemistry, molecular biology and biomedical research.
1. Rossner, M., Van Epps, H., and Hill, E. (2007) Show me the data. J. Cell. Biol. 179, 1091 – 1092.
2. Falagas, M. E., and Alexiou, V. G. (2008) The top-ten in journal impact factor manipulation. Arch. Immunol. Ther. Exp. (Warsz). 56, 223 – 226.
3. Van Noorden, R. (2010)Metrics: A profusion of measures. Nature 465, 864 – 866.
4. Symonds, M. R., Gemmell, N. J., Braisher, T. L., Gorringe, K. L., and Elgar, M. A. (2006) Gender differences in publication output: towards an unbiased metric of research performance. PLoS One 1, e127.
ASBMB President Suzanne Pfeffer (email@example.com) is a biochemistry professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.