A proposal for reorganizing the world of scientific publications which would save Spain millions of euros
At the beginning of the twentieth century few scientific journals existed and their range of diffusion was limited. In the field of medicine, two publications stood out: in the United States, The New England Journal of Medicine, which was established in 1812, and The Lancet in Europe, which dates back to 1823. The main objective of the authors, most of whom were researchers, was to report important findings to their scientific community. These findings were often expected, as, for example, with Watson and Crick’s publication of the breakthrough in the structure of DNA in Nature 1 or Fleming’s discovery of penicillin 2, milestones in medicine that became known through their publication as scientific articles or simply as a letter, as in the case of the discovery of DNA 1.
More than 30 years ago, everything changed. Eugene Garfield’s impact factor for scientific journals 3 was initially conceived as an index to assess the quality of journals and to provide orientation for librarians (the essence of the impact factor is to list the frequency with which a given article is cited in other quality journals as well as the number of articles that the magazine publishes)4. The impact factor suffered a malevolent distortion in its use and, by extension, began to be used as an index of quality of the scientific articles published in the journals with an impact factor. From that point on, it conditioned the professional attitude of publishers, scientific journals, researchers and even of research institutes, universities and ministries, a phenomenon that has been recognized and lately called into question5.