The most prestigious peer reviewed journals are losing power. They are contributing less and less to the amount of articles getting cited. This is the conclusion of professor Vincent Larivière, who studied the citations of articles published between 1902 and 2009. He now warns scientists to rethink their collective conscience. ‘The impact of journals is no longer suitable for evaluating research.’
Larivière, a professor at the University of Montreal’s School of Library and Information Sciences, studied 820 million citations and 25 million articles published between 1902 and 2009. He himself published his findings in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology.
The decline of citations started at around 1990, his results show. In this year still 45% of the top 5% most cited articles were published in the top 5% highest impact journals, like Nature, Science and Cell. In 2009 their share in most cited articles was brought down to only 36%.
Larivière points to the internet as the main threat to the impact of peer reviewed journals, providing open access to all kinds of scientific articles. It might therefore be time to stop evaluating studies by the journals that published them, he thinks. But the prestigious journals do still have one very important function: the peer review.