My group mates and I are working on a manuscript now. I'm not the first author, but this going to be my first paper, so I hope it goes to a good journal. However, I don't know which journal is good for this manuscript. I asked my supervisor, and he suggested a journal, which I've never heard of. He said that journal had some potential. I asked the other authors, who are my group mates, if that is a good journal. None of them had heard of the journal either. But one of them told me I should look up its impact factor and the impact factor could tell me whether that was a good journal. So I searched and the factor is between 3-4. That group mate then told me 3-4 meant that was an average journal. So I feel disappointed.
So here are my questions: Do impact factors indicate how good a journal is? Should I go for a journal with a higher impact factor? Does this number mean my supervisor doesn't think highly of our paper? Do the impact factors matter when I look for academic jobs (postdocs, and lectureships in the future) ?
The laughable obsession of academia with impact factors and university ranking tables is one of the many reasons why I am glad to be out of the system.
At your stage what you should be worrying about is doing great science, learning how to be an independent researcher, building collaborations, thinking about exciting new projects and getting published in an international standard, peer-reviewed journal. Period.
None of this other stuff should matter. Your science is as good as your science is. Where it gets published should make no difference to that but academics do tie their little knickers in a twist about getting a journal with the highest possible number stuck on the front page. It's all a bit unseemly, tawdry and utterly pathetic but depressingly it may be something you need to worry about if it is your intention to join this absolute charade of a career path.
I'm in an "eeyore" mood today. Sorry about that :-D
I agree with pm133, you should be focused on being a great scientist over the IF of a journal.
Something to add on IF though:
There are some well know, well-respected journal with lower IF, but are very specialised journals. Then you have a journal with high IF, that take a wide range of paper on a different area- hence a higher IF.
The way I seen it published is published, no matter the IF. Yes, higher IF look better, but I have yet to do one interview where I've been asked about IF.
A high IF would look impressive IMO but it probably isn't that big a deal at this stage. When applying for professorships I think you have to state the IF of each one of the papers (at least you do at my uni). But I wouldn't worry that much. Go for the best journal you think it could go in. Some people I know have a strategy of submitting to higher impact factors first and then working down through the list. Personally I just go for a journal that I think it will be accepted in. One where I've read similar papers.
Just as an amusing aside, I was trying to think of a way of demonstrating the dangers of obsessing over impact factors and came up with a couple of examples.
If Watson and Crick had published in a low/medium impact factor journal it's likely that Biology would have remained a subject outside mainstream science.
What about Planck's groundbreaking work or Einstein's work in Quantum Mechanics? It's likely we would still be trying to understand the photoelectric effect.
Of course you could say it was the responsibility of those scientists to publish in the highest impact factor journals but what if they didn't? What if they just wanted to get published quickly in a decent journal and move on rather than mess about for potentially a year or more trying to get into Nature?
Mainstream scientists would have ignored or derided these journals as "not containing important science".
This is not a new thing. There are plenty of examples out there of new science being discovered only to turn out that Chinese and Russian scientists had already published that work decades before.
Those of you who are planning to join academia as a career have a responsibility to seriously question things like impact factors and league tables otherwise you risk being part of a problem I think we can all see.
Anyway just some thoughts on the matter.
Publishing in high impact factor is nice but publishing in an "average" IF is better than rejection, right? I agree with TQ, for the first paper let it get it published then later seek excellence. In postdoc applications, it will raise many questions if you have no publications. At your stage just do it and when you have the luxury to choose the journal, aim for the high IF.
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