This week the new ISI impact factors came out and I eagerly perused the new standings among my favorite academic journals. I don't know why I am so interested, but the journal scene has become something of a soap opera to me. Will Ecology Letters continue its meteoric rise or will it pay for its disturbing corporate control of author's intellectual materials? Will Nature continue it's mysterious, drunken, plummet from the stratosphere leaving the field clear for Science to dominate..well, science.
I eagerly looked to see where the respected journals of my field were ranked relative to each other. I pulled up the subject category for Ecology and sorted by impact factor. I was immediately shocked into silence. The #1 ranked journal in the field of ecology is.....B. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist? General Disarray and I were doing this simultaneously in our living room on separate laptops. As we sat there in stunned silence, he was the first to find his voice, "What is that?" Well, "it" is the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History and in 2007 is published such ecological classics as:
The anatomy of Effigia okeeffeae (Archosauria, Suchia), theropod-like convergence, and the distribution of related taxa
The braincase in Paleozoic symmoriiform and cladoselachian sharks
I have nothing against these publications. I am sure they are lovely and important contributions to some field. Zoology, perhaps, or Systematics/Evolution. Paleontology, seems like a good guess. However, I honestly do not understand the titles in this journal, which I take as a bad sign for it being an ecology journal, since I am...well.. an ecologist. There are a couple of papers that might be classified as ecology, but in general it is completely and totally inconceivable to me that this is, in any way shape or form, the top journal in my field.
So, how did it get there? Well, aside from the obvious answer that someone at ISI was smoking something when they put that journal into the ecology category, the more interesting answer is in the impact factor itself. This journal has an impact factor of 16.85. To put this in perspective, Science, Nature, and PloS Biology, and PNAS have impact factors of 26.372, 28.751, 13.501, 9.598, respectively. This means the Bulletin of AMNH is between those of Science and PLoS Biology. How the heck did this thing get there? Well, it publishes around 6-7 papers per year and each paper is approximately 100 pages or more (i.e., they're BOOKS!). I am very sure that each of these papers is extremely valuable because of their comprehensive coverage on a topic.
I find the whole thing very fascinating and I have had a great deal of fun imagining the rush of papers the Bulletin of AMNH will be receiving from those wanting to tell their promotion and tenure committee that they published a paper in the top ecology journal. Having milked the Bulletin of AMNH for the total amount of fun I can, it is time to return to more serious insights to be gained from the new rankings. Apparently the intervention by the other Nature publishing group journals successfully shook Nature out of it's drug-induced stupor, convincing it to take back control of the Nature Corporation and challenge Science's hegemony over the world....