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The Impact Factor Game

  • The PLoS Medicine Editors
  • Published: June 06, 2006
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030291

Reader Comments (7)

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Stop Playing the Impact Factor Game!

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:02 GMT

Author: Shi Liu
Position: No occupation was given
Institution: Truthfinding Cyberpress
E-mail: SVL@logibio.com
Submitted Date: November 21, 2006
Published Date: November 29, 2006
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

I agree completely with your criticisms on the impact factor (IF) game [1]. In fact, I had already published many such criticisms earlier [2,3].

Besides the many known mistakes in citation recording [4] and the arithmetic or algorithmic defects in IF calculation [3] IF also contains a significant potential for misleading the scientific community [2]. For example, retraction nowadays happens very often in scientific journals especially in the IF-wise 'top' journals [5,6]. However, the publication of retraction and the exposure of scandal not only attract more readers but also increase the IF values of the journals [7,8]. This is because, ironically enough, retracted papers often got more citations than other valid papers. More ironically, while a paper can be retracted, its citation contribution to its journal has never been subtracted.

Citation chase and IF game have driven purely scientific publishing into some eye-ball catching commercial activities. These activities have eroded the truth-seeking nature of scientific research and, to a large degree, have encouraged the unethical behaviors in scientific research and publishing. Within such a corrupted publishing environment, the true value of a scientific publication is no longer reflected by its intrinsic value but by many extrinsic factors.

However, when scientific publications become some 'real estate' objects whose values are no longer mainly determined by their content but by their locations of publishing and when the location of scientific publishing weighs heavier than the originality and the truthfulness of the research findings, how much creativity and objectiveness will be left for appreciating the truly ground-breaking scientific discovery [9].

Unscientifically calculated IF has exerted a significant negative impact on scientific publishing. Unethically played IF game has contributed the formation of an ill-pressured cooker that drives many normal scientists crazy [10]. Thus, I believe it is not enough to just correct the IF formula to end the further erosion of our scientific culture and research spirit by the IF. Rather, it is time to stop the unethical IF game entirely and eradicate its false impact on scientific communication.


1. PLoS Medicine Editors (2006) The impact factor game: It is time to find a better way to access the scientific literature. PLoS Med 3: 707-708.
2. Liu SV (2006) The impact factor scam in scientific publishing. Sci Ethics 1: 72-73.
3. Liu SV (2006) Exaggeration is common in scientific world. Sci Ethics 1: 83-84.
4. Liu SV (2005) Citation bubbles burst after name-poking. Logical Biology 5: 131-134.
5. Liu SV (2006) Why are top journals often so unlucky in infecting top scandals? Sci Ethics 1: 49-52.
6. Liu SV (2006) Top journals' top retraction rates. Sci Ethics 1: 91-93.
7. Liu SV (2005) Glories after retractions: What do the citation number mean? Logical Biology 5: 125-127.
8. Liu SV (2005) Retracted papers: How to curtail their impact? Logical Biology 5: 128-130.
9. Liu SV (2006) Citation should credit pioneering researchers and original works. Sci Ethics 1: 94-96.
10. Liu SV (2006) What drives scientists crazy and causes them to misconduct? - The origin and evolution of modern scientific misconduct. Sci Ethics 1: 53-58.

No competing interests declared.