Front. Hum. Neurosci., 24 June 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00291

Deep impact: unintended consequences of journal rank

  • 1Institute of Zoology—Neurogenetics, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
  • 2School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  • 3UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies and School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Most researchers acknowledge an intrinsic hierarchy in the scholarly journals (“journal rank”) that they submit their work to, and adjust not only their submission but also their reading strategies accordingly. On the other hand, much has been written about the negative effects of institutionalizing journal rank as an impact measure. So far, contributions to the debate concerning the limitations of journal rank as a scientific impact assessment tool have either lacked data, or relied on only a few studies. In this review, we present the most recent and pertinent data on the consequences of our current scholarly communication system with respect to various measures of scientific quality (such as utility/citations, methodological soundness, expert ratings or retractions). These data corroborate previous hypotheses: using journal rank as an assessment tool is bad scientific practice. Moreover, the data lead us to argue that any journal rank (not only the currently-favored Impact Factor) would have this negative impact. Therefore, we suggest that abandoning journals altogether, in favor of a library-based scholarly communication system, will ultimately be necessary. This new system will use modern information technology to vastly improve the filter, sort and discovery functions of the current journal system.

Keywords: impact factor, journal ranking, statistics as topic, publishing, open access, scholarly communication, libraries, library services

Citation: Brembs B, Button K and Munafò M (2013) Deep impact: unintended consequences of journal rank. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:291. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00291

Received: 25 January 2013; Accepted: 03 June 2013;
Published online: 24 June 2013.

Edited by:

Hauke R. Heekeren, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Reviewed by:

Nikolaus Kriegeskorte, Medical Research Council, UK
Erin J. Wamsley, Harvard Medical School, USA

Copyright © 2013 Brembs, Button and Munafò. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Björn Brembs, Institute of Zoology—Neurogenetics, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstr. 31, 93040 Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany e-mail:

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