In the good old days, when milk was delivered to your door, 5 cent would get you a house, fascism had yet to ravish Europe, etc., academia was also adorably quaint, and left you brimming with nostalgia. Researchers would subscribe to a handful of journals and (probably) read every article in each. That was the extent of an individual’s exposure to the primary literature; their academic fill, as it were. Hence in the days of old, things like journal reputation and total subscribers were paramount!
Whilst still important in the modern age (under the guise of ‘impact factors’ following a tactical rebranding) there has certainly been a dramatic shift in culture as the way we obtain journal articles. The internet has changed the game. Articles are extracted from all-encompassing search engines with little (if any) thought given to the source journals. Now, the journal in which a publication features is little more than an afterthought when adjudicating a paper’s merit, and I for one approve.
I can personally recall innumerable instances whereby I finish reading an article, hold some serious reservations concerning methods, data, etc., only to find out that it originated from some prestigious journal or another. I have also experienced the reverse, an impressive paper of lowly origins, with similar regularity. This may infuriate others, but for me, this is exactly how it should be: judging papers on their content. Reputation has no place in science. It delights me to know that with the increase of e-journals and open access, this unbiased assessment of the primary literature is becoming increasingly common and is well on its way to becoming the norm for such endeavours.
Of course, such a dramatic shift in knowledge acquisition is likely to have myriad consequences for the future of research, the form of which will take a far lengthier blog post to explore…