The dawning of the age of article-level metrics

Once again the death of the impact factor has been announced and as usual I wonder whether Mark Twain would mind his famous quote being misappropriated once again, that is, another death being greatly exaggerated.

While F1000 has always held the view that impact factor is not the best gauge of a paper’s worth, Richard has blogged about other options here and here so I won’t repeat his comments.

Walter Jensen tacked the BMJ opinion piece with the claim that PLoS I is  ‘the first publisher to implement article level metrics’. Make up your own mind as to whether anyone can ‘own’ ALM but rest assured that F1000 is working on new and better ways to gauge an individual paper’s worth, regardless of the journal it appears in.

***

Back to the ongoing David Nutt story and the Daily Mail have outdone themselves with a scary view into a world where only outlandish opinions, not facts, are taken seriously. There are more crazy ideas in this piece than in Nick Griffin’s head but these are worth highlighting:

The trouble with a ‘scientific’ argument, of course, is that it is not made in the real world, but in a laboratory by an unimaginative academic relying solely on empirical facts.

and

I am not suggesting that any British scientists are currently conducting experiments comparable to those which were allowed in Nazi Germany or in Soviet Russia.

Imagination? The writer AN Wilson obviously has an overactive one, which the online sub-editor tried to counter with the headline “Yes, scientists do much good”. It would have been better to stop after those words but the Mail knew some controversy would send the Twitter world crazy and supply Ben Goldacre and Charlie Brooker with easy targets for outrage. And we love them for it (Ben and Charlie, not the Mail).

The Mail has gradually taken elements off the page, such as a poorly thought-out poll ‘Should alcohol be classed more dangerous than ecstasy?’ and a picture of Adolf Hitler, as each item has been highlighted and derided in hundreds or maybe thousands of tweets.

We were asked recently on Twitter whether we were embarrassed at having one of our stories covered by the Mail. And I said no because in that instance the subject matter was handled fairly well, it wasn’t treated hysterically, even though they did run it alongside a picture of Mylene Klass (I didn’t know she played piano despite all the paparazzi shots of her appearing in  London Lite). If they get the facts right and treat a story with respect, good on them but I just wish these bizarre opinion pieces and scare stories didn’t run in the same pages.

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