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The spirit of the San Francisco DORA in scientific meetings

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) advocates for avoiding the use of journal impact factors in evaluations of scientists and their contributions. I very much agree with the idea, and so do the many signatories of the declaration, both personal and institutional. Impact-factor fascination syndrome (IFFS, the very thing DORA wants to counter) is however spreading and thriving in the research community.

I would propose to extend the spirit of DORA to scientific meetings: Speakers in adhering research meetings should avoid quoting journal names in what they show. Nowadays, the names of one or two authors and the year should suffice to find any paper, if there is no arXiv reference for instance. It sounds sensible that when speakers describe their work, they show the reference of where to find the relevant publication. But we all know that showing references to high-impact-factor journals is used to impress the audience (not to mention journal covers), and I can perceive myself biased in my appreciation of what I am seeing in a talk by the names of journals I see mentioned. Well, if you are actually listening to a scientific talk, there you have one of the authors directly explaining the work and its relevance. Why should you as audience delegate judgment to editors and referees of journals, when you are seeing it there first hand?

Of course, sensible and experienced researchers are used to separate the wheat from the chaff, but we should be aware of our research cuture, and what we are transmitting to students. The impact-factor-fascination syndrome is propagating alarmingly, and has been for quite some time. I am among the quite Quixotic researchers that think that we should actively fight it. This is one possibility.


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