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Nature on the slide?

In the beauty contest that is the annual citation report from ISI, linkurl:Nature;http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html has tripped and fallen off the stage. Having been the top journal in 2004 with an impact factor of 31.9, they slipped marginally behind linkurl:Science;http://www.sciencemag.org/ and linkurl:Cell;http://www.cell.com/ in 2005. But the latest figures, for 2006, show a gulf in linkurl:impact factors;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/impact_factors . Science comes in at 30.0, Cell

By | August 3, 2007

In the beauty contest that is the annual citation report from ISI, linkurl:Nature;http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html has tripped and fallen off the stage. Having been the top journal in 2004 with an impact factor of 31.9, they slipped marginally behind linkurl:Science;http://www.sciencemag.org/ and linkurl:Cell;http://www.cell.com/ in 2005. But the latest figures, for 2006, show a gulf in linkurl:impact factors;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/impact_factors . Science comes in at 30.0, Cell at 29.2 and Nature at 26.7. The numbers are calculated as the total number of citations in the year 2006 to papers published in the years 2004 and 2005, divided by the number of papers published in 2004 and 2005. That's three-and-a-half fewer citations on average for a Nature paper versus a Science paper. It is hard to say why this gap has opened up. It doesn't necessarily reflect a decline in the quality of papers published. I wonder if any readers have noticed a deterioration in Nature? I haven't. Maybe there's been a change in editorial strategy, downplaying certain highly cited areas like genomics? Can't say I've seen evidence of that either. Or perhaps it's just a blip. We'll have to wait a year to know that. One sure thing is that there will be concerns expressed at my former employers' office in Crinan Street, London and a quiet smile of satisfaction at my other former employer on New York Avenue in DC. No idea what will be happening in Kendall Square, Cambridge.
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