Brembs and Munafò: Abandon scientific journals

Neurobiologist Björn Brembs and biological psychologist Marcus Munafò in the paper “Deep Impact: Unintended consequences of journal rank”:

[U]sing journal rank as an assessment tool is bad scientific practice. Moreover, the data lead us to argue that any journal rank (not only the currently-favored Impact Factor) would have this negative impact. Therefore, we suggest that abandoning journals altogether, in favor of a library-based scholarly communication system, will ultimately be necessary. …

Alternatives to journal rank exist – we now have technology at our disposal which allows us to perform all of the functions journal rank is currently supposed to perform in an unbiased, dynamic way on a per-article basis, allowing the research community greater control over selection, filtering, and ranking of scientific information [57,112–115].

Since there is no technological reason to continue using journal rank, one implication of the data reviewed here is that we can instead use current technology and remove the need for a journal hierarchy completely. As we have argued, it is not only technically obsolete, but also counter-productive and a potential threat to the scientific endeavor.

We therefore would favor bringing scholarly communication back to the research institutions in an archival publication system in which both software, raw data and their text descriptions are archived and made accessible, after peer-review and with scientifically-tested metrics accruing reputation in a constantly improving reputation system [116].

This reputation system would be subjected to the same standards of scientific scrutiny as are commonly applied to all scientific matters and evolve to minimize gaming and maximize the alignment of researchers’ interests with those of science (which are currently misaligned [27]).

Only an elaborate ecosystem of a multitude of metrics can provide the flexibility to capitalize on the small fraction of the multi-faceted scientific output that is actually quantifiable. Funds currently spent on journal subscripts could easily suffice to finance the initial conversion of scholarly communication, even if only as long-term savings. Other solutions certainly exist [73,117], but the need for an alternative system is clearly pressing [118].

H/t Christo Fabricius

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