Based on the experience of the author and analyses of citation frequences of papers published in various biological journals, the use of citation counts and journal Impact Factors as a measure of scientific quality is discussed. It is concluded that citation frequency differ not only among biological sub-disciplines such as ecology and taxonomy, but also among taxonomic papers on highly similar topics, and that these latter differences largely depend on organismal group (cryptogams vs vascular plants and species-rich vs small genera and families) and geographic region concerned. As a result, journals with a broad biological scope face difficulties to compete in terms of Impact Factors, and thus to compete for the best manuscripts, with journals specialised on particular sub-disciplines that attract many citations. However, since papers on ”hot” topics also tend to be short-lived, these differences, at least in part, would by much reduced if citatons were counted over longer periods of time or if compensated based on the average age of cited references in the relevant field. In particular in taxonomy, factors such as originality and innovativeness, generally regarded as measures of scientific quality, appear to be inversely correlated with citation frequency. It is concluded that scientific editors would be able to significantly increase the Impact Factors of taxonomic journals, not by choosing the most scientificaly valuable and supreme submissions for publication, but by picking manuscripts based the taxonomic belonging and geographic distribution of the organisms concerned. Still, the author sincerely hopes that no editor will ever take such measures!
- Biologiska vetenskaper