The recent Nobel Prize winner Randy Schekman suggests the idea of boycotting highly recognized journals (Cell, Nature, and Science) in order to focus our energy into doing science for the need of new knowledge instead of concentrating on what is fashionable and sensationalistic.
It is very easy to think about boycotting the most recognized and high impact journals once you have published several times in them and have been rewarded with the highest prize: a Nobel.
But what about young scientists?
As an early career scientist with a need to develop a well known and successful research program in a very competitive field, going against the status quo by boycotting the big journals might be a luxury that few could afford. In particular, peers evaluating someone’s career success often do rely on metrics such as publications in high impact factor journals. As a colleague of mine, James Stroud, points out, one cannot stop having some feeling of curiosity about Dr. Schekman’s boycotting opinion when he is the editor of a journal (eLife), which is competing with the mentioned high impact factor journals. Certainly taking the advice of Dr. Schekman to boycott is a tough path to follow.
Although I can understand the idea of boycotting, I do agree with the fact that I have found myself many times pondering what research question is going to produce results worthy of Science. Certainly, the need of publishing in high impact factor journals can detract attention from science that may not be flashy but is still important. In a way, this situation violates the foundation of science in the quest for knowledge by establishing a bias.
While the appeal and need of being a successful, published author in a high impact journal will not vanish from night to day, the evaluation of one’s own career or that of one’s peers should not be focused on the development of a research program simply aimed to publish in these journals. It should be focused on the development a rigorous research program that will aim to satisfy the need for scientific knowledge.
To boycott or not to boycott: can we afford it? Can young or pre-tenure researchers just turn their backs to the luxury journals when one article in these journals can mean a job or tenure?