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Disrupting research assessment: welcome to DORA!

Disrupting research assessment: welcome to DORA!

Changing our way of thinking...

Few days ago publishers, editors and scientists signed up the San Francisco Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA). The main revolutionary statement of the DORA is that journal impact factors should not be used "as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist's contribution, or in hiring, promotion or funding decisions." 

 

The journal impact factor (JIF), a number used to rank journals by the average number of citations their articles receive over a given period, although created for other purposes it has been adopted as measure of prestige and success for scientific evaluations. Nowadays, among many other reasons, the research system is collapsing on itself because of a perverse vicious cycle centered of the following principle: your future, your career and your funding sources are strictly dependent on the JIF. Many PhD students, junior and senior Post-docs as well as PIs struggle for years and years to publish their discoveries in high impact journals (see as high JIF). Committee for fellowships and tenure positions, universities and funding agencies evaluate according to JIF and potential candidates started adding the “magic number” close to their list of publication in their CVs. Isn’t that a bit insane? We have ridiculously consolidated a system in which the journals we target become the final goal of our research. During the last decades the final output of our work has switched from working for knowledge and society to working for JIF, thus becoming a sort of surrogates for profit publishing companies. The obsession for JIF has generated anxiety of production, fear of sharing, hypertrophic egoism and narcissism as well as unhealthy competition and frustration. In addition, this cocktail is overburdened by the economic crisis that is exacerbating the distortions of our “ecosystem”.

 

Hopefully the system is changing, slowly but is changing and DORA represents an important step of this change. One day I’d like to hear a question like “what did you publish?” instead of the current one “where did you publish?” I’m pretty sure that between “what” and “where” the difference is not negligible. Perhaps, in a hypothetic future world, scientific journals, as conceived today, will not have a meaning anymore and most likely even less their JIF.

 

In the XXI century we can upload our manuscript anywhere making good practice of internet. Papers will be classified according to their scientific impact and not according to the journal name. Keeping the holy peer-review system, that (should) assure quality and robustness, we could “publish” our discoveries on a virtual library and the post-review process, made by the entire scientific community, will assess the quality, the importance and the value of our findings. A world made by scientists for scientists, in which the ultimate output is to create and to share knowledge and not just accumulating JIF. A world in which we could shift our rusty priorities and go back to original curiosity, emulation and devotion for biology. Thanks to open access journals, to social networks, scientific blogs and new technological platforms this scenario is closer and closer.

 

Now it’s just matter to be part of the change! Now it’s up to us…make a good choice, sign DORA and spread the word!

 

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