About impact factor, freedom trails and electrology

Dear reader,

Though I have tried to be virtually present as much as possible, I am currently neither in Delft nor in my hometown Leiden. This also explains the late hour of this post. Where I am, it is currently a little over 6 pm. I am in Medford, a small forensic town near Boston, MA, USA. The main reason for being here is twofold. First, as Editor-in-Chief (EiC) of the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems-I, I participated in the annual IEEE Panel of Editors (PoE) meeting. Second, I am here to give an invited talk at Tufts University in a seminar hosted by Prof. Sameer Sonkusale.

During the PoE meeting, we discussed a lot about good and not-so-good EiC practices, about upcoming changes to IEEE Xplore, about plagiarism (which, unfortunately, becomes more of a problem), about journal performance metrics, etc. The latter is also very important to you. That is, if you (plan to) make scientific, design and engineering contributions and you (plan to) present them in a journal or at a conference. And if they contribute to your reputation as a researcher, scientist, designer or scholar. For this, our busy chairs, heads and leaders, more and more resort to the only thing they understand about your work, being "the number"; more specifically, the Impact Factor (IF). I will not bother you with the exact definition of IF; many people do not even know and don’t care, your boss probably included, but it is generally considered to be a measure to express your importance, or the importance of your publications, or the importance of the journal that you publish your work in. Whereas it purely counts incoming citations without considering the significance of those citations.

ethicsSince the algorithm for computing the impact factor is simple, it is also simple to manipulate. And this is exactly what is being done constantly, by authors, who for this reason include a lot of self-citations in their manuscripts, and by journals that impose a lot of self-citations (to the journal) on their authors. Since this is seriously blurring the reputation of people and journals, but also the minds of our evaluators, more objective figures-of-merit have been discussed, the most elegant one probably being the Article Influence. If you are interested you may wish to (and if you are a boss of a scholar or a scholar yourself, you probably should) check out http://www.eigenfactor.org/.

After the PoE meeting, I took off for a walk in and around the city center of Boston, called The Freedom Trail. See http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/. The Freedom Trail was recommended to me by Menno (as of now honorary member of the BME group) and, according to the web site, is "a 2.5 mile red-brick walking trail that leads you to 16 nationally significant historic sites, every one an authentic American treasure." And indeed it did. And I believe it also guides you through some of the most beautiful places in Boston. If you ever happen to be around, check it (and the Guinness from one of the Irish pubs) out!

Today I changed hotels and I am currently in Medford, where I will be staying for the coming two days, as tomorrow and the day thereafter I will meet various students, professors, heads and deans of Tufts University and give two presentations on Electronics for Wearable and Implantable Medical Devices, discuss possible opportunities for collaboration and discuss some latest research results that both Sameer Sonkusale’s group and the one of yours truly are working on.

So what about electrology, then? Well, today I went for a walk in the town of Medford and I came across a sign that advertises the services offered on 82 Forest St. Among them those of an Electrologist. So what does he or she do? Well, the sign reads on with the name of the therapist (which I will not disclose here) and the name of his shop: "Hair it go’s!" The service? Permanent Hair Removal. So if you ever wonder whether I may be getting bold, don’t you dare. Signing off with a famous phrase of Senad: "The things we do for science…."

Wouter

One response to “About impact factor, freedom trails and electrology

  1. Yeah, what we really are doing is all for science :=(

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