Popularity is not the way to judge science articles

 Guest Publication

Article-Level Metrics: An Ill-Conceived and Meretricious Idea 
[Via | Scholarly Open Access

Many are excited about innovative measures that purport to quantify scholarly impact at a more granular level. Called article-level metrics or ALMs, these measures depart from time-honored computations of scholarly influence such as the journal impact factor. Instead, they rely on data generated from popular sources such as social media and other generally non-scientific and meager venues.

As someone who studies predatory open-access scholarly publishers, I can promise you that any system designed to measure impact at the article level will be gamed, rendering the metrics useless and invalid. For instance, there are already companies that sell Facebook likes — an example is the firm called Get Likes. Predatory publishers are partly successful because of complicit authors, and these same authors will pollute popular metrics just like predatory publishers have poisoned scholarly publishing.


From last year but worth remembering.

Popularity is open to way too many gaming approached. Giving the people what they want is a horrible way to measure and perform scientific research.

Recently, I have noted the appearance of what I call “article promotion companies.” These are discipline-specific websites that spam the authors of scholarly articles with offers to promote their articles through the promotion companies’ websites. An example is the company Educational Researches. They generally charge $35 to promote a single article. Many email me asking about the ethics of these services. Certainly many more such services will appear if article-level metrics catch on.

$35 to get a paper a higher score. How many researchers would use such an approach to increase their chances for tenure? It would distort the entire publication of science.

We already see too many approaches for gaming Twitter trends or Facebook likes. So many that they often are no longer good measures of popularity.

Subjecting a researcher’s career and tenure prospects based on social media tags will not produce better science.It will produce scientists focussed on getting on Twitter.