Impact Factors — Letter to RCUK

Following my post of last week asking RCUK to include in the guidelines on their new open access policy a statement disavowing the use of impact factors in assessing funding applications, I wanted to thank everyone who registered their support. I also wanted to provide the text of the letter that was sent yesterday to Alexandra Saxon, RCUK’s Head of Communications.  All the signatories are listed below.

As we now know, Alexandra left a comment on that post indicating that RCUK will respond positively by amending the guidelines in accordance with our request. I am grateful to RCUK for such swift action on this and look forward to the revised text with great interest.

Dear Alexandra

I am grateful for the opportunity to comment on the recently published guidelines on the new OA policy of RCUK.

I appreciate the flexibility built into the guidelines, which usefully reiterate the principle that the choice of route to OA remains with the authors and their institution. As the document recognises, this freedom of choice should be an important factor in helping to drive down costs in the developing market for OA publishing, something that is in the long-term interests of both researchers and funders.

For such a move to succeed, the guidelines ask researchers to exercise some adaptability in their choice of journal. However, this is only likely to happen if the community can free itself from its dependency on impact factors. Although, as far as I know, neither RCUK nor any of its associated research councils has an explicit policy of considering impact factors in the assessment of funding applications, the practice of using them to quickly evaluate individuals is widespread and unjustified.

Therefore, to help make a shift away from the culture of dependency on impact factors, I would like to ask RCUK to amend its guidelines to include a statement confirming that Research Councils will explicitly disavow the use of impact factors in the assessment of individuals or applications.

As you know I raised this issue in a recent blogpost, where the rationale behind this request is laid out in more detail. I also used this blogpost to recruit support for my request and all those who indicated their agreement, either in the comment thread or directly by email, are listed as co-signatorties here. That list would no doubt have been longer if you hadn’t offered prompt and welcome reassurance that action to comply with this request would be taken. We look forward to the revised document.

Best wishes,

Stephen Curry, Imperial College
Tom Olijhoek, OKF Open Access Working Group
Jon Butterworth, UCL
Richard Harvey, Kings College London
Fional Nielsen, Illumina UK
Peter Quinn, Kings College London
Dave Barlow, Kings College London
Richard Johnson, Swansea University
Sylvia McLain, University of Oxford
Athene Donald, University of Cambridge
Dorothy Bishop, University of Oxford
M Jayne Lawrence, Kings College London
Tamsin Mather, University of Oxford
Peter Murray-Rust, University of Cambridge
Graham Steel, Glasgow
Mike Taylor, University of Bristol
Steve Pettifer, University of Manchester
Paula Salgado, University of Newcastle
Chris Chambers, Cardiff University
Julia Bardos, University of Cambridge
Ross Mounce, University of Bath, OKF
Mike Fowler, Swansea University
Alfonso Martinez Arias, University of Cambridge
Samuel Furse, University of Nottingham
Elizabeth Stanley

From overseas:
Jim Till, Ontario Cancer Institute, Canada
Jonathan Peelle, Washington University, USA
Jim Woodgett, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Toronto, Canada


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7 Responses to Impact Factors — Letter to RCUK

  1. This is great – and very cool of you to start this off…. hopefully it will yield results. On a very picky side note – my surname is McLain not McClain … but this is just me being pedantic

    • Stephen says:

      Thanks Sylvia – and apologies for mis-spelling your surname. I guess I used up all my spelling juice getting your first name right! Have now corrected it here though regret that the erroneous version was sent to RCUK.

  2. Mike Taylor says:

    Many thanks, Stephen, for getting this done. I’m having an insane-busy month, and to my disgust didn’t around to writing in myself. I appreciate the opportunity to have been a signatory on your letter.

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