Monday, December 23, 2013

Our Journal is 99 44/100 percent pure!!

Sometimes we are asked to evaluate how good a journal or conference  formally(Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Better-than-being-poked-by-a-stick,pass the stick). Sometimes we talk about these things informally (ICALP is the European STOC! SODA is as hard to get into as FOCS!, CCC is a topTier topics-conference!)

But is there a way to judge these things formally? And should there be?Be aware of Goodhart's Law:

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.
 One way to measure how good a journal or conference is  impact factor which is based on number-of-citations. Does this work well? Some issues:
  1. Even with an honest effort these things are hard to do well. People may cite the conference version, the journal version, the arXiv version, or just give a website.
  2. Even with an honest effort just a few articles can skew the results.
  3. Its hard to compare cross-fields.  I suspect that pure math journals have lower citations rates than biology journals.
  4. If an author cites himself, should that count?
  5. The above points were all about HONEST efforts. Could a journal do things to boost its impact factor and then brag about how high their impact factor is? Would they? Alas yes, see this article and this article.
So what are we left with? We could just go on our gut, but that favors journals that used to be good and aren't any longer. But the problem is deeper than all that--- can't we just say Thats a good article  and not have to proof it by saying where it was published? Alas no- all fields have gotten specialized that we must use these proxies to inform us.

 I COULD rant that we should all be well rounded enough to read outside of our field, but I know how hard that is.

I COULD rant about the dishonesty pointed out in the above links, but that's only part of the problem.

I COULD say What do you think? so I will.


  1. Just publish in "high rated" journals, and you are the Perelman? Is it the Xmas joke?

  2. When asked to evaluate/weigh/order journals and conferences, the only good answer is "How About No?".