Australia abandons journal ranking initiative

Last year I reported how Australia ranked over 20,000 peer-reviewed journals. The Australian now reports that Innovation Minister Kim Carr has announced that the Excellence in Research for Australia initiative will no longer assign rankings to journals.

The Minister said  “There is clear and consistent evidence that the rankings were being deployed inappropriately within some quarters of the sector, in ways that could produce harmful outcomes, and based on a poor understanding of the actual role of the rankings. One common example was the setting of targets for publication in A and A* journals by institutional research managers.”

Instead of ranking, each publication will be provided with a “publication profile,” indicating how often it was chosen by academics in a given field. Hmmm, sounds like an impact factor…

Smother Nature

"Smother Nature"

Australia Ranks Over 20,000 Peer-Reviewed Journals

Australian Research CouncilThe Australian Research Council (a statutory authority within the Australian government) started their Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) program in 2008. Part of their mission was to assess research quality within Australia’s higher education institutions. To that end, panels of experts evaluated 20,712 peer-reviewed journals and assigned a quality tier to each journal. The results are now available as an Excel spreadsheet. The list is huge, and covers mathematics, economics, education, law, chemistry, physics, earth sciences, etc. Readers of this blog will probably be most interested in the Medical and Health Sciences category, which has 4,368 journals. Journals within each category, along with their quality tier assignment can be found in html format (Medical and Health Sciences are category 11 and its subdivisions), or you can sort the spreadsheet. A detailed breakdown of all the categories and subdivisions is available, but be aware this document is 424 pages.

Journals were assigned to one of four tiers, briefly described below. Complete definitions of the tiers are available.
A* –  one of the best in its field
A  –  very high quality
B  –  solid, though not outstanding reputation
C  –  journals that do not meet the criteria of the higher tiers

This extensive, evaluated list could be very useful for measuring the quality of a medical library’s journal collection. How many of your journals fall into each tier? When it’s time to cancel journals, those in the C tier could become prime candidates, depending on local usage. When a new program is started at your institution, this list would be helpful in quickly finding the top journals in that field. (While Impact Factors from Journal Citation Reports are helpful, that commercial product has far fewer titles than this list.) Let’s hope this program can maintain such a useful list into the future. Good on ya, Australia.

Please see the May 31, 2011 update on this post.

Now a minor motion picture

Way back in July, I asked for help in putting together a presentation on dealing with collection development in these economic times. I finally had the time to turn my October 1 presentation at the UNYOC meeting into a QuickTime movie and dub the audio to it. The video is embedded below, but you can also go to Vimeo to watch it in a larger window or to download it if you want. The text is available separately at Scribd. Many thanks to my colleagues who sent in their ideas and tips. The spirit of sharing has always been alive and well in the library community, and the Internet expands that spirit exponentially.

In case you’re wondering, the presentation was done in Apple’s Keynote, not in PowerPoint.

Phishing for Reviewers

I gotta hand it to the criminal mind. It is always thinking of new ways to separate people from their money. The latest (and first in medical publishing that I know) is a variant of the Nigerian scam, and it uses Elsevier as the bait. The email from “Chief editor” Jochem Koos (hey, that’s a Dutch name, right? It must be legit…) is looking for reviewers of manuscripts submitted to Elsevier. And the pay (PAY?) is good – $30 per page of manuscript reviewed. All you have to do is pass the screening of your credentials, and pay $100 for the screening process. What a deal! You get back that $100 and more with your first review.

Elsevier is aware of this scam, and has posted a web page warning people about it, but I’m surprised it hasn’t received much publicity. Librarians might want to warn their faculty, although it is hard to imagine even the greenest, most naive instructor falling for this. A document accompanying the email is reproduced below, complete with spelling errors and mangled English.

Phishing letter


Merck cartoon

Articles of the Future

Elsevier’s “Article of the Future” seems to be the blogging topic du semaine. Take a look at their press release and the two prototypes demonstrating the concept. According to the press release, key features are:

*A hierarchical presentation of text and figures – readers can elect to drill down through the layers based on their current task in the scientific workflow and their level of expertise and interest.
*Bulleted article highlights and graphical abstract – readers can quickly gain an understanding of the paper’s main message and navigate directly to specific sub-sections of the results and figures.
*The graphical abstract encourages browsing, promotes interdisciplinary scholarship and helps readers identify more quickly which papers are most relevant to their research interests.

Another planned feature is a short audio interview of the primary author with the journal editor. This is all very eye catching and whiz bangy. Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb asks whether this is “ground-breaking stuff or yesterday’s news repackaged.” He links to various blog opinions, which range from “another key development in an interesting transitionary period for both the publishing and media sectors” to “a collection of everything that is possible to do now, but for which there is no commercial demand.”

Kent Anderson of The Scholarly Kitchen says it “looks like an article from the past, with some embedded hyperlinks, some AJAX tabs, two basic social media elements, and not much else.” Paul Carvill at the Online Journalism Blog calls the prototypes “underwhelming, cumbersome and shortsighted.”

I’ll let others argue the usefulness of these prototypes, and how they might be improved. What has been unsaid about the prototypes are the obvious costs associated with pulling apart a traditional article and putting it back together with tabs, bullets, JavaScript, clickable images, audio interviews, live citation counts, and other bells and whistles. Elsevier, like most STM publishers, has been criticized by researchers and librarians for the high prices they charge for articles freely given to them by authors. Publishers typically respond by pointing out the overhead costs of refereeing and editing the papers (even though the referees provide their services at no charge). It’s obvious that “articles of the future,” if they come to exist in a format similar to these prototypes, will necessarily require scores of web designers, graphic artists, audio engineers, and others to turn a simple manuscript into eye candy. This is much more expensive than a few copy editors. This would allow publishers to easily point out the “enhanced value” the readers are enjoying, and justify even higher subscription prices. And what will most readers do? Locate the article, print out the pdf, and leave.