Why are UK universities still relying on journal impact factors?

By the CDBU Steering Committee

If you work in the sciences, you will be all too aware of the journal impact factor (JIF). The requirement for ‘publications in high impact journals’ has become a staple of job advertisements, and the achievement of this goal is emblazoned across research group websites as evidence of gloriousness.

The strange thing is that the validity of JIF has been questioned for many years. JIF is a bibliometric measure that was designed to help librarians decide which journals were most likely to be worth stocking. As Stephen Curry noted in 2013, even in that capacity it has been found wanting, and it certainly was never intended to be used to rate quality of individual research papers. Indeed, there are arguments that ‘high impact’ journals are more likely than other journals to publish papers that report dramatic findings that are unlikely to replicate, and to use editors and reviewers who lack expertise in the subject – the LSE blog on impact of social sciences has gathered a number of useful links on this topic.

So why are universities still taking JIF so seriously? It can’t be blamed on the REF. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) explicitly stated that for REF2014: “No sub-panel will make any use of journal impact factors, rankings, lists or the perceived standing of publishers in assessing the quality of research outputs.” Continue reading

CDBU launches infographic on student fees


As noted in an earlier blogpost, CDBU has a strong interest in student fees.

We are concerned that Fees in England are nearly four times higher than in Ireland and seven times higher than the next most expensive country in the EU, the Netherlands. English students now graduate with over three times more student debt than the average American student. By 2046 collective unpaid student debt will be £330 billion in today’s money.

Students have been told that the state will pick up their unpaid debt, but in thirty years’ time they will be the taxpayers who will have to repay the unpaid balance on their own student loans. So the current fees system shifts the entire funding burden from older people – whose university years cost them comparatively little or nothing – to the next generation.

The current government plans to make matters even worse by selling student debt to banks and pension funds at a knock-down price. The aim? To fund tax cuts that help older people even more.

Most students and parents in Britain, from all backgrounds, agree that the majority of higher education costs should be paid by the state.

In common with many of our academic colleagues, we think that the current system is unfair, irresponsible and unsustainable.

To raise awareness of this issue, we have launched a short infographic that provides the key facts on two A4 pages.

  • The infographic summarising the key points can be downloaded as PNG or PDF: Print-Ready format or Hi-Resolution formatPlease publicise this: print it out, display it, and send it to your friends.
  • A detailed commentary on the facts and figures behind the infographic can be found here (opens link in a new tab).
  • Information about the policies on higher education funding of the different political parties can be found here. (opens link in a new tab)
  • The draft text for a letter that you might like to send to candidates standing for election in your local constituency can be found here (download).