Thomson Reuters celebrated June by rolling out the 2013 edition of the JIFs for 2012 (a journal's JIF runs a calendar year behind) along with the news that it had banned a record number of journals—66—from future JIF counts because of "citation stacking." Writing in the Nature News Blog, Richard Van Noorden reported that Thomson Reuters had added an additional 37 journals to their "suppression" list for excessive self-citations that game the JIF, which he defined as "the much-maligned measure of how often the average research paper in a journal is cited."
Meantime over at Science, guest editorial writer Marc Kirschner, chair of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and a former ASCB President, was tearing into a different kind of "impact" assessment, a proposal by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that grant reviewers be required to attach a paragraph on the likely "impact and significance" of the project, including the work's possible "sustained and powerful influence." Kirschner was blunt. "One may be able to recognize good science as it happens, but significant science can only be viewed in the rearview mirror." Citing the example of DNA restriction enzymes, Kirschner said that what was "once the province of obscure microbiological investigation ultimately enabled the entire recombinant DNA revolution."
Attempts to predict significance and make basic discovery more efficient are doomed to failure. Says Kirschner, "In science, faster, better, and cheaper are not as important as conceptual, novel, and careful."