Preprint / Version 1

Are publications on zoological taxonomy under attack?

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DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1590/SciELOPreprints.1164

Keywords:

Bibliometrics, Biodiversity Crisis, Journal Impact Factor (JIF), Scientometrics, Systematics

Abstract

Taxonomy is essential to biological sciences and the priority field to be supported in face of the biodiversity crisis. The industry of scientific publications has made extensive use of bibliometric indexes, resulting in distortions to institutions, organizations, and researchers, such as the side effect known as Journal Impact Factor (JIF) mania. Inadequacies of the most widely used bibliometric indexes from giant companies Clarivate™ (InCites™) and RELX™ Elsevier B.V. (Scopus®) to assessment of the relevance of taxonomic publications were considered as one of the impediments for the progress of this field. Recently, Clarivate suppressed the mega-journal Zootaxa, focused on taxonomy, from Journal Citation Reports (JCR), a database with 12,000 periodicals. Zootaxa suppression, together with other 32 journals, was based on an unusual high proportion of self-citations. Suppressed journals would thus not receive a value of JIF for 2020. A prompt reaction from the scientific community against the suppression of Zootaxa took place and, accordingly, Clarivate announced its reinstatement. This situation exposed many persistent myths and misuses of bibliometric indexes. The goal of this study is to shed light on the impacts of bibliometric indexes to the taxonomic field and on underlying aspects of the suppression of Zootaxa. Our major question is whether the suppression of any journal from JIF can really affect the production in the taxonomic field. We explored data metrics from the JCR (Web of Science Core Collection™) for 2010–2018 of the top ten zoological journals (eight are included in JCR) in the number of new taxa and journals focused on or regularly publishing taxonomic studies, totaling 123 journals. Zootaxa shows higher levels of self-citations than similar journals. We consider that two possible explanations provided for the high number of self-citations, i.e., Zootaxa’s scope on taxonomy and the fact that it is a mega-journal, are inadequate. Instead, putative explanations are related to the “Zootaxa phenomenon,” a sociological bias that includes visibility, and potential harmful myths that portray Zootaxa as the unique journal that publishes taxonomic studies with an inviting JIF value. Menaces to taxonomy as a science come from many sources and the low bibliometric values of its journals are only one of the factors that contribute for establishing the so-called taxonomic impediment. We suggest rejection of bibliometric indexes, including JIF, instead of considering them when convenient. Taxonomists as a community, instead of being deeply focused on journal metrics endorsing the villainy of bibliometric policies imposed by dominant companies, should be engaged with renewed strength in actions directly connected to the development and promotion of this science.

Posted

2020-08-31

Section

Biological Sciences