Friday, January 11, 2008

A Free Journal-Ranking Tool

The latest issue of Nature feutures a news item reporting on a freely-available tool that can be used to generate citation statistics for papers, journals and countries. The SCImago Journal & Country Rank is a portal that includes the journals and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the Scopus® database. This platform takes its name from the SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) indicatorpdf, developed by SCImago, a Spanish data-mining and visualization group. This indicator is based on Google PageRank. This tool is a competitor to Thomson's Web of Science, and covers more journals (15,000 in lieu of 9,000) and 20-45% more records than the Web of Science.

The availability of this tool, as well as of Google Scholar of course, puts Thomson under some pressure. I think that this is welcome pressure. To see why, you might wish to read this editorial. Basically, the "impact factor" is one of the Gods of modern-day academia, together with "leadership" and a few other criteria not necessarily related to scholarship. It has "a strong influence on the scientific community, affecting decisions on where to publish, whom to promote or hire, the success of grant applications, and salary bonuses. " However, as claimed in the editorial, "members of the community seem to have little understanding of how impact factors are determined, and, to our knowledge, no one has independently audited the underlying data to validate their reliability." This is obviously undesirable.

I think that, for good or for worse, impact-factor-based evaluation of our research output is here to stay. However, when making decisions based on impact factor, citations and what not, I hope that deans, employers, funding agencies and rectors will consult several different sources and compare the results that they get. Moreover, I do hope that good, old-fashioned evaluation of the quality of one's work will not disappear altogether to be replaced by purely quantitative indicators.

For the moment, let's play with our new toy. In case you are interested here are the rankings of countries in computer science: all subjects, computational theory and mathematics, TCS (but as a subcategory of mathematics), logic (as a subcategory of mathematics) and mathematics as a whole.
Draw your own conclusions.

No comments: