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8 thoughts on “Getting on the short list: academic job applications”

  1. Great… After so much effort to bring forward the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, young people are still instructed here to make the impact factors of their publications clear in job applications…

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  2. Impact factors aren’t going away any time soon. They are still a thing, and while they are a thing, they are going to be used for comparative assessment in grant proposals and job markets. Science is hard, it’s performance-based, and the more you can do to underline and highlight your performance where it counts, the better.

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  3. There are better indexes to show how good your research is when you apply for a job, which I expected would be explored and explained in this article. I always look for the H-index and the “individual impact factor” when I evaluate somebody’s scientific credibility.

    The journal impact factor shows how cited is that journal, not a specific paper you may have published there. You may want to show you have papers good enough to be published in big journals, I understand that. But if your paper happens to have zero citations then you’re just making a fool of yourself (or fooling yourself). You need to show more than that to stand out in the crowd.

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  4. Many organisations are now placing less emphasis on the Impact Factor (which is great – I fully support the principles of DORA), but I think this is very country-specific – I don’t know what it’s like in New Zealand, but it may well be that Megan’s advice reflects her own experience, and what’s expected there…
    Remember that H index is really problematic for junior researchers as well – if you only published your paper a few months ago, it won’t have gathered any citations yet, so your H index would be very low.
    Essentially, there’s no substitute for judging an individual’s research output by the actual content of their publications (and their application/grant proposal), but unfortunately with the volume of applications, this isn’t always feasible.

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  5. Actually, the H-index may not show the impact of our most recent research, but to apply for a “lecturership position” one needs a track record of good publications over the years. A couple of publications from the PhD plus a couple of publications from at least one post-doc should start showing up on the H-index.
    However, as said, it is best to use a combination of indexes, H-index, individual impact factor, etc. Journal impact factors are a bit useless when evaluating a candidate. They are great to evaluate a journal, no doubts about that, that’s what they where meant for.

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  6. Fair point Peter – I guess it depends how you define a ‘good’ H-index, which is something I don’t have a good feel for. Does 3 or 4 count as a good H index if you’re applying for a faculty position?

    I have to say, though, that I don’t think that Impact Factors are even a good way of evaluating a journal. There are plenty of ways to ‘game’ the IF system – some of which are deemed acceptable by the publishing community, and some of which aren’t. You can publish lots of front section content – either reviews that cite much better than research papers, or editorial material that won’t count in the denominator of the IF calculation, but whose cites do count in the numerator. You can front-load your issues, publishing big issues in the first part of the year so articles have more time to get noticed before the IF window kicks in. You can encourage (or even coerce) your authors to cite papers in your journal.

    Even without these tricks, there are so many factors that influence IF – other than the quality of the science published in a journal – that it’s pretty flawed as a measure. Consider, for example, the fields of mouse developmental biology and yeast biochemistry: it might be possible to do a full set of experiments for a yeast biochemistry paper in 6 months, allowing you to publish a follow-up paper a year or so after an initial paper came out – meaning that you can cite that initial paper while those cites still count towards the IF. But an equivalent mouse developmental biology paper, that might require a couple of generations of breeding, or even making a new mouse line, will probably take a couple of years – so by the time you’ve published that follow-up paper, cites to its predecessor have already fallen out of the IF window.

    I agree that a range of metrics is the way to go – we have the 5 year impact factor, the citation half-life, the EigenFactor and many more. The problem is that no-one really knows what any of these, except the standard IF, mean!

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  7. That’s exactly the problem – while the IF is a flawed metric (as is the H-index to a lesser degree), it’s still ‘industry standard’ in that it’s understood by most, particularly people who have been in the system for some years. Bringing it back to what I see as the purpose of this blogpost, it’ll be those people who are sitting on your interview panel, and as with all pieces of scientific writing – be it a grant proposal, a job application or a ‘lay’ science communication article – you have to write to your audience, put yourself in their position, understand their mindset, what motivates them, what they might be looking for. Like the research industry at large, those people have a need for a metric which reliably compares the relative quality and impact (for want of a better word) of different journals and journal articles, even more so in a research environment facing further dissolution/fractionation of the publication market and the difficulty of assessing new open access journals with the established ‘old guard’ publishers in any particular field. Long story short, include whatever metric it is that is understood by the generation who sits on your panel – whether IFs today, or something else in five years – and if it’s favourable to you of course!

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  8. Thanks for all the interesting comments! IF certainly isn’t a great metric but it is one of many that selection committee may consider when evaluating CVs and many people do include them on their CV.
    Basically use want ever metric makes your CV stand out and this may differ depending upon the stage of your career. It is really about emphasizing your research impact in the field you work on to a group of people who may not work in that exact field.
    As an aside: in NZ we have a performance based research model of funding (PBRF) for tertiary education organisations, ran every 6 years – in which we are required to include IF, H-index, journal ranking etc as part of the “Quality Evaluation” of your research. Which means there is now a bit of a drive for University departments to employ people who will rank highly in PBRF = more $ for the Uni.

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