The Declaration on Research Assessment sounds like a pretty beige topic for a blog post, but stay with me on this, because it’s an important industry standard that changed the direction of scientific publishing, maybe forever. Hopefully I’ve got you hooked now and you’re just chomping at the bit to find out more about DORA. Are you all sitting comfortably? Let me tell you a little story…
Once upon a time (I wasn’t kidding about the story part), a group of knights (Journal Editors) travelled to their castle for their annual gathering (the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco). When sitting at their roundtable, they began discussing their respective villages (journals) and the obsession with achieving the royal seal of approval (the Journal Impact Factor).
Though the royal seal was one way of showing how prosperous their village was, the knights felt that there were many other ways to evaluate their villages and show how wonderful they were. They felt that the royal seal was influencing traders (authors) to only trade (submit manuscripts) to the villages where the royal seal had been bequeathed. This was having far-reaching effects on traders and the local economy (the research funding process), because traders were having trouble acquiring goods (research funding) from large merchants (research funders), unless they had agreed to only trade with villages with the royal seal.
The knights were fed up with this “royal seal” business and decided to create a Declaration (the Declaration on Research Assessment, DORA), which all the knights in the land would sign. The Declaration would declare to all the lands that from that day forward, the royal seal would nevermore be used as the only way of evaluating the prosperity and success of a village, or of the traders that traded with the villages. And thus going forward, the heart of a village (the scientific content of a journal), would be more important than any royal seal of approval. So popular was the Declaration, that 21,676 knights and villages in 158 countries across the world signed the Declaration (as of 2022). And so began a change in the world.
The royal seal still held nostalgic importance for villages, and there was still great excitement when a royal seal was bequeathed by the royal family (Clarivate Analytics), but because of the Declaration, people all over the land knew that the true value of a village, was the heart of the village and that the royal seal was just one of many ways in recognising the prosperity of a village and its people.
Don’t we all love a bit of story time? We’re all children at heart. Anyway, in case you didn’t get the analogy I was going for, DORA was created because editors and researchers were frustrated with the Journal Impact Factor being the only metric of assessing journals and research. Early Career Researchers in particular were finding it challenging to get funding for their research unless they published in Impact Factor journals. The problem was getting worse and worse, but DORA now acts as a reminder that research and researchers need to be evaluated on their success in a more holistic way. Publishers and journals that have signed up to DORA must abide by its rules. For example, two key clauses of DORA for publishers are:
“6. Greatly reduce emphasis on the journal impact factor as a promotional tool, ideally by ceasing to promote the impact factor or by presenting the metric in the context of a variety of journal-based metrics (e.g., 5-year impact factor, EigenFactor , SCImago , h-index, editorial and publication times, etc.) that provide a richer view of journal performance.
7. Make available a range of article-level metrics to encourage a shift toward assessment based on the scientific content of an article rather than publication metrics of the journal in which it was published.”
(San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, DORA: https://sfdora.org/read/ )
There are now many alternative ways of ranking and evaluating journals. Some of which you can read about in my upcoming blog post on journal rankings, so watch this space.
Yes and no. As I said in the story, the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) is still a metric that holds great regard in the publishing industry. I speak with Editors all the time who tell me that their number 1 goal is to get their journal an Impact Factor. We have steadily moved away from using the JIF as the only metric that matters, but in practice, we still have a long way to go until the dream of those knights in the story becomes a reality.
This blog is all about breaking down complex topics in a way that is fun and understandable, so I hope you all enjoyed the story time today! Please subscribe to the blog for more information about academic, scholarly journal publishing and to breakdown the latest trends in a fun and understandable way.