Wow! Apparently even major science journals like Nature, Cell, and Science can be biased by the appeal of the popular:
[Nobel prize winner] Schekman criticises Nature, Cell and Science for artificially restricting the number of papers they accept, a policy he says stokes demand “like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags.” He also attacks a widespread metric called an “impact factor”, used by many top-tier journals in their marketing.
A journal’s impact factor is a measure of how often its papers are cited, and is used as a proxy for quality. But Schekman said it was “toxic influence” on science that “introduced a distortion”. He writes: “A paper can become highly cited because it is good science – or because it is eye-catching, provocative, or wrong.”
You can read the whole article on the Guardian here:
Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals
Good on Schekman for pushing back!
This “impact factor” strikes me as similar to Google PageRank and other metrics which have lead to the creation of linkbait (annoyingly catchy headlines and images), effectively turning the entire internet into a race-to-the-bottom popularity contest.
Consider this article from the Atlantic about the linkbait site “UpWorthy” on why these annoying headlines are now dominating social media.
…how sustainable is this? Can news organizations keep promising you that their content is not only wondtacular but also, actually, wondtacular-er? Does adjective creep in headlines exist—and, if so, how can it be fought?
Of course, in self-help and personal development, this kind of inflation in marketing claims of course the norm: “Get stronger, faster, make more money, easier and faster than you ever thought possible!”
It can be humbling to slowly, cautiously, yet persistently pursue personal improvements, or study something in depth. It is incredibly difficult to do science correctly and precisely, to actually find out what is happening without bias.
And indeed I struggle with how to market a business in an environment where everyone is promising impossibilities (in the personal development world) or no changes at all are possible (in much of the psychiatric and psychotherapy world).
I hope I can present a middle ground here at Scientific Goals that is sufficiently rigorous, but that will also not be ignored because it isn’t hype-y enough!
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