Indexation and/or Citation of Journals/Articles/Authors in the Scientific Validation System
Acta Stomatol Croat. 2010;44(3):138-141.
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Our Editorial Office values in Scopus database, especially since Scopus’ validating team has accepted Acta Stomatologica Croatica for indexation in 2010. Of course, the Editorial Office is happy with this decision, mostly because of the fact that Scopus is currently the strongest commercial general database. Its reputation in scientific circles and excellent possibilities for search, this database will yield the journal “more visible”, which is in the interest of every publisher. It is positive for a journal to be included in several similar databases, thus reaching more potential readers and authors.
Indexation of journal
Due to the continual growth of the number of primary journals, the main goal of secondary publications is informing the readers about the published articles of different publishers, according to a given criterion. It is to be expected that general indexation databases tend to include as many publications as possible, giving complete information. In the ideal case, the scope would be to give information about the complete scientific and professional production in the world. Of course, in reality this is not feasible. But, earlier, some of the greatest commercial database producers have not shown the interest to widen the number of journals, or even some other changes. Such an approach is understandable, since they are not part of the scientific community, they are commercially oriented. They have probably rendered their position satisfactory and stable, so there was no need for advanced investment in database development. On the contrary, we are witnessing a completely different approach – most of the database publishers have a restrictive policy towards including new journals. There are numerous boards that decide on accepting new journals, the “magic rejection formula” to the editorial office claims: “Scientifically and geographically the area of your journal is already well covered in our database”. Does that mean that by reading one journal from a certain scientific and geographical area, which is indexed in a database, we shall completely satisfy our needs for information, so there is no need to read others? Of course it does not, for scientists have the right to know what is published in other publications.
Criteria for journal assessment
If we take a closer look at what is assessed (by analyzing some of the application forms), it can be confirmed that part of it are only formal and technical criteria. The periodicity of the journal must be followed; the language of the journal is assessed as well as whether there are English abstracts, whether the abstracts are structured, and the types of articles that are published; what scientific area/discipline the journal covers, whether the articles contain mostly local, regional or international information. The quality and the independence of the editorial board is ascertained, as well as whether there are editors for the scientific area, for the language, as well as the quality of the offset, print, graphics, binding, whether there are commercials, their quantity and location, readability of the articles, number and percentage of published, accepted and rejected manuscripts, and the obligation of a written statement on lack of conflict of interest.
Criteria that can qualify as quantitative are mostly related to the review process. Number of rejected manuscripts that were not submitted for review is required, as well as the number of reviews for a manuscript. Furthermore, following information is requested: mode of reviewer selection, possibility that authors can exclude some of the reviewers, does the reviewer know the name of the author and vice versa, can the authors reply to the reviewers; when an author is requested to alter a part of the manuscript, who checks the corrections, are there instructions on how to write a review; the importance of the published information, their “freshness”, the dates of the reference list, the originality and the scientific contribution are also assessed. However, it is not known how these assessments are made.
It is completely obvious that in this process one side is superior, and the other mostly inferior. On the superior side there are the database producers that need not give evidence why the journal is rejected. The inferior side is reserved for the journals, i.e. their editorial boards.
An interesting question arises – why do the journals accept the inferior position, and why do they insist to be included in secondary databases? Every editorial office tries to inform scientists and professionals about the newly published articles/knowledge, it is a way how to attract new readers. But, since the readers are possible future authors, the future of a journal depends much more on the authors than readers. Today it seems that informing potential readers/authors cannot present a problem to any editorial office. So there must be some other, more important reason why every editorial office tries to include their journal in indexation databases.
Quantitative markers of scientific contribution
An important reason can be found in the criteria for evaluating scientific contribution of a single scientist, group of researchers, an institution or a state.
During evaluation, the committees have to use measurable markers that should be impartial and objective. Basically they should just establish measurable markers, since these are based on the number of published works. This method is objective, but it does not say anything about the quality of the works; even during the numbering of such articles there can be problems due to imprecise or incomplete categorization of published works. It is possible that a system validates only articles in journals, but remains oblivious to the authorship of books or chapters in a book. Problems may also arise when certain categories are not present, so the committee can categorize articles according to its assessment. Scientometric parameters give quantitative information on, for example, total number of articles of an author, type of article, number of co-authors, affiliation and/or country of origin, etc.
Qualitative markers of scientific contribution
It is more complex to ascertain the qualitative component of scientific contribution. The criteria are more difficult to define, in order to satisfy the principle of impartiality and objectivity. Reviews represent one of the usual procedures in the assessment made by competent professionals. They are used by numerous committees for various means, common ground being always the assessment of quality. Reviews are always made by noted professionals in the area whose assessments are reliable, although the subjectivity can never be totally omitted. This is especially noted in scientific communities with small numbers of colleagues when they are not choosing foreign reviewers.
Citation system is an important communication mechanism between the researchers, at the same time being a mechanism of validation of a single article/author. It is based on ethical principles of scientific research, and its main goal is to introduce the reader to the sources used by the author and to differentiate ideas of the author from the ideas of other researchers. A scientist will cite only articles/authors that have awakened his interest by confirming or rejecting a thesis. In both cases, if the citations are independent, a citation is reported for an article/author in the scientific community. A certain percentage of auto-citations is normal and can be expected, especially if author focuses on a single problem for a certain period. But they should be excluded when the influence of a researcher/article on the wider scientific community is assessed.
The importance of citation was highlighted by E. Garfield who has presented the first citation indexation publication. Back in 1955 he started the Science Citation Index that was followed by Social Science Citation Index and Arts & Humanities Citation Index that have grown into the Web of Science in the digital technology. By creating a citation database, all the prerequisites for numerous researches of scientific productivity were completed. New publications were started, such as Journal Citation Report that statistically analyzes all the important data from three major indexes. It gives much information with added value about the journals such as Impact Factor, Immediacy Index and Cited Half-life. Impact Factor is the most used issue, being the most controversial at the same time. There are numerous scientometric analyses that have pointed to many disadvantages, but this is not the place to elaborate on them. We can only conclude that today the major opinion about the Impact Factor is that it gives information about the journal, but is not to be used when assessing an author.
The problem of validation of scientific contribution was still opened, so Thomson Reuters introduced Eigenfactor Metrics, which is in fact an amalgamation of two measurements. The first is the Eigenfactor Score that gives a numerical mark of the overall importance of a journal. It is computed based on the total number of citations during the year for the journals published in the last 5 years. More cited journals score higher marks than the less cited ones.
The second is Article Influence Score that gives the data of the average influence of the article from a given journal. It is computed by dividing the Eigenfactor Score with the number of articles published in a journal.
Hirsch’s Index (H-Index), which is used in Scopus database, has marked a distinct advancement from measuring the quality of a journal towards measuring the quality of an author. H-Index is a number that says that a certain author has so many articles with so many citations, while her/his other articles have less.
Eigenfactor Score and H-Index are relatively new markers that are currently being tested in numerous investigations.
It is obvious that when computing quality markers, apart from reviews, common ground is represented by author citations. The logical conclusion is that the most important marker in validating scientific contribution should be the number of independent citations by a single author. It is important to point this out, since in some countries more value is attributed to the journals indexed in certain secondary databases than the non-indexed journals. These criteria generate pressure on authors to publish in such journals, and even more pressure on the editorial office to get into the databases. This is the main reason, after “visibility” of the journal, why do the editorial offices try to get their publications included in the secondary databases. Commercial publishers accept such criteria, and they value their validating committees. It is a fact that every element that gets a better mark means that the journal on the whole is better. But such a mark represents the average, meaning that some articles are better, and some worse. Therefore, it should not be a decisive element in validation of an author/article.
Criteria for validating authors/articles are very important and should include equal quantitative and qualitative markers. Citations are certainly on the top of the list with a condition that auto-citations are excluded; they should be the most contributing factor in reaching the final decision.
The criterion that an article is published in a journal that is indexed in a secondary publication can be considered an indirect marker of quality and should not be decisive in quality evaluation of authors.
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