Monitoring change

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Science  12 Feb 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6530, pp. 653
DOI: 10.1126/science.abg9540

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The Science family of journals is launching a number of new initiatives related to our editorial policies. We now have a web page listing several important metrics for scientific journals (www.sciencemag.org/journal-metrics). This information will be updated at the end of each year with new data.

One set of metrics is the numbers of research paper submissions and the rates at which they are peer reviewed and ultimately accepted for publication. The Science journals receive many submissions each year and select only a subset (11 to 32% across the journals) for external review. Decisions about peer review are made by professional editors at Science, Science Immunology, Science Signaling, and Science Translational Medicine; by academic editors for Science Advances; and by a combination of academic and professional editors for Science Robotics. Submissions to Science Advances continue to increase, showing the enthusiasm for the journal and its practices. There are now more than 300 members of its editorial board under the leadership of Ali Shilatifard of Northwestern University.

Another set of metrics shows the time that elapses at various stages of the review process. All of us—editors, authors, and reviewers—would love to move even faster, but we hope that by posting these numbers, the Science journals can work with reviewers and authors to get papers evaluated, revised, and published more efficiently than ever. As a reminder, the Science family of journals supports the posting of preprints when the authors choose to make information available while the formal peer review process proceeds. Our journal metrics web page also shows the numbers of citations for published papers at each journal over 2 years. These data are used to calculate the journal impact factor (JIF). The Science family is a signatory of the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which seeks to broaden the ways in which the impact of journals and papers is assessed beyond the traditional JIF calculation. As the Declaration notes, citation distribution within a given journal can be highly skewed. Thus, a small number of highly cited papers can inflate the mean number of papers that have a high citation value well beyond the modal citation count. In the interest of transparency, we are displaying the full distribution of citations in a histogram format for each journal.

An additional category of metrics relates to the impact of the journals taken from Web of Science and Scopus, two resources of comprehensive data on scholarly peer-reviewed publications. The criticisms of JIF are that it was never intended to be a measure of the quality of a paper published in a particular journal and that it is subject to manipulation by journals as well as by institutions that use the calculation as a key driver of decisions about promotions, tenure, and research funding. Thus, our policy is to report not only the JIF for the Science family of journals, but also a variety of other related metrics.

In 2017, Science joined a working group of publishers and academics that aimed to align standards for the transparent reporting of life science research. This led to the creation of the Materials Design Analysis Reporting (MDAR) framework, a means for scientific journals to apply the Transparency and Openness Promotion (TOP) Guidelines to articles in the life sciences. The framework provides both minimum and best practice recommendations. In 2019, Science participated in a pilot study with 13 journals from other publishers that tested implementation of the proposed minimum recommendations through the MDAR checklist. After the pilot, we adopted the draft checklist with the goal of improving reproducibility of our life science papers. We have received positive responses from authors and plan to continue using the checklist, which will be updated when final recommendations of the MDAR working group become available.

Also, we were pleased to join 14 other publishers in a working group to promulgate new guidelines for software citation, a critical element of the scientific record.

After a year like no other, the Science journals remain committed to partnering with scientists around the world to produce a durable and accurate scientific record. We are deeply grateful to the authors, reviewers, and others who work with us to push science forward every day.

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