The fox guarding the henhouse? Or, why we don’t need another citation-based journal quality index

Nature announced on December 8 that Elsevier has launched a new journal quality index, called CiteScore, which will be based on Elsevier’s Scopus citation database and will compete with the longstanding and influential Journal Impact Factor (IF).

Conflict of Interest

One can hardly fault Elsevier for producing this metric, which is well positioned to compete with the Impact Factor.  But for researchers and librarians, there are serious concerns about CiteScore. Having a for-profit entity that is also a journal publisher in charge of a journal publication metric creates a conflict of interest, and is inherently problematic.   The eigenfactor team Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West have done some early analysis of how Elsevier journals tend to rank via CiteScore versus the Impact Factor, and conclude that “Elsevier journals are getting just over a 25% boost relative to what we would expect given their Impact Factor scores.”  Looking at journals other than Nature journals – which take quite a hit under the CiteScore because of what Phil Davis refers to as Citescore’s “overt biases against journals that publish a lot of front-matter” — Elsevier journals still get a boost (15%) in comparison with Impact Factor.

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Open Access policies: Protecting authors’ rights

This is a guest post written by Devin Soper, Paolo Mangiafico, and Kevin Smith. The letter was originally submitted to Science, which declined to publish it.

In a recent letter to the editor of Science, Ilya Kapovich states that “unsustainable ethical and legal burdens are placed on faculty in schools with Harvard-style open-access policies.” While it is true that the terms of open access (OA) policies are sometimes inconsistent with those of standard publishing contracts, this legal complexity is the result of the unnecessarily restrictive and complicated language used in such contracts, which typically require authors to assign their copyright to a publisher, and which thereby work against the interests of authors, other researchers, and the public. In contrast, Harvard-style OA policies simplify this situation for authors, making it clear that they and their home institutions retain rights in the works they create, and thereby providing a means of redressing the systemic problems caused by restrictive copyright transfer practices. In this sense, and in addition to making thousands of articles available to those who otherwise would not have access, OA policies are designed to give faculty choices, allowing them to retain more rights in their work than they would under standard publishing contracts, giving them access to a range of tools and services to help them make their work OA — and yet also giving them the option to waive application of the policy with no questions asked.

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Sci-Hub and the curious case of author attitudes

Sci-Hub has received a lot of attention in 2016. From multiple articles in Science and The Chronicle of Higher Education to Sci-Hub focused sessions at professional meetings, lots of folks have weighed in on the pros and cons of Sci-Hub and its undeniable impact on scholarly communication. Over the past six months I’ve attended programs on Sci-Hub at the ALA annual conference, the fall ARL membership meeting, and one here at the University of Arizona during Open Access Week. In reflecting on these experiences I’m struck by how Sci-Hub illustrates the apparent disconnect between authors’ permissive attitudes toward sharing copyrighted materials and their willingness to sign publishing agreements that often make that sharing illegal.

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