Randy Schekman, a newly minted Nobel laureate for his work on cell transport, writes in the Guardian that prestigious journals like Science, Nature, and Cell create incentives for scientists to publish in their journals that Schekman says are damaging science. He adds that his lab at the University of California, Berkeley, will no longer be submitting papers to those journals.
"Like many successful researchers, I have published in the big brands, including the papers that won me the Nobel Prize," he says. "But no longer."
Schekman argues that the pressure on scientists to publish in big-name journals like Science, Nature, and Cell leads them to follow the hot trends in the field rather than follow more important, but less flashy topics. The journals, he adds, "aggressively curate their brands" and seek out controversial topics to boost their impact factors and encourage research to be judged by the impact factor of the journal in which it appears.
"This influences the science that scientists do," Schekman says. "It builds bubbles in fashionable fields where researchers can make the bold claims these journals want, while discouraging other important work, such as replication studies."
He adds that it may also contribute to scientific corners being cut and then to a number of retractions.
Instead, Schekman, who is an editor of eLife, the online journal from the Wellcome Trust, suggests that researchers publish in online, open-access journals.
A related article in the Guardian includes responses from journal editors. Peter Campbell, the editor-in-chief of Nature, notes that he and his colleagues have voiced their concern about the research community's over-reliance on impact factors.
"We select research for publication in Nature on the basis of scientific significance," he adds. "That in turn may lead to citation impact and media coverage, but Nature editors aren't driven by those considerations, and couldn't predict them even if they wished to do so."