The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment

In May 2013, more than 480 researchers and 80 scientific organisations published a declaration condemning the use of the journal impact factor to measure scholarly success.  Journals and organisations such as Science, Proceedings of The National Academy Of Sciences (PNAS), Times Higher Education, and Wellcome Trust are among the organisations backing this call.

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment states the journal impact factor is misused to assess the significance of work by scientists who publish in those journals. A number of themes run through these recommendations:

  • “the need to eliminate the use of journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, in funding, appointment, and promotion considerations;
  • the need to assess research on its own merits rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research is published; and
  • the need to capitalise on the opportunities provided by online publication (such as relaxing unnecessary limits on the number of words, figures, and references in articles, and exploring new indicators of significance and impact)”.

The first and general recommendation is:  “Do not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.”

The declaration concludes that we need a cultural change where papers are mainly evaluated for their own scientific merit.

A note in Nature (2005) stated that research assessment “rests too heavily on the inflated status of the impact factor”. And the biologist Stephen Curry of Imperial College London wrote in a blog post: “I am sick of impact factors and so is science”.

Too many journals – too little good research

Erlend Hem’s  Editorial in the Norwegian Medical Journal “Too many journals – too little good research” is thought-provoking, especially the question of whether we publish too much. Fewer and better publications is a good conclusion of his Editorial. But, if we should publish good articles in traditional journals or in electronic “Open Access” (OA) journals is difficult to answer.

OA has improved access to medical journals. Researchers in developing countries can access them free.

Hem suggests that traditional journals have better peer-review  than OA journals such as BioMedCentral. I know of examples of articles that have inadequate peer review. However, this applies to both OA and traditional publications. In the research training programme at the University of Bergen, students criticize scientific papers, often from well-known journals such as BMJ and Lancet. And, they often find serious mistakes in the papers.

My question is: Is the editor best suited to choose what is good and important science, and what is essential to publish? And, we know that editors favour scientists they learn to know at conferences and meetings.

Many electronic journals (such as PLoS ONE and BioMedCentral) accepts all submitted articles as long as they meet minimum scientific criteria. Such a policy means that they publish many scientific articles. And such journals have a surprisingly high impact factor, and the best research institutions use them.

Is not it time the Norwegian medical Journal (and other journals) are more “Open Access”? I suggest that all articles that meet the minimum scientific requirements should be published electronically. The Editor can then choose articles they wish to publish in the printed paper version.

(This is a translation of the Norwegian text on the Journal’s blog)


New issue of Ethiopian Journal of Health Development

The contents include:
Original articles
Bibliography on HIV/AIDS

New articles from EJHD

The latest issue of the Ethiopian Journal of Health Development contains many interesting articles.

Among these important public health articles, I would like to highlight one paper: Getnet Tadele from the Department of Sociology at Addis Ababa University writes about sexual abuse against male street children in Addis Ababa (1). He worked in the Merkato (main market) area in Addis Ababa, and found that sexual abuse against male children around Merkato area is widespread.

Male homosexuality makes up a major HIV transmission route in the Americas, Eastern Europe and parts of Asia but is rare in Africa. Although anthropologists have reported homosexual behaviour in Africa since the 17th century, it remains as a taboo subject. Recent information suggests that homosexuality is common in Ethiopia. This adds to increasing evidence that the HIV epidemic in Ethiopian towns is more complex that previously anticipated (2 – 4) .


1.         Tadele G. ‘Unrecognized victims’: Sexual abuse against male street children in Merkato area, Addis Ababa. Ethiop J Hlth Dev. 2009;23(3):174-82.

2.         Kloos H, Mariam D, Lindtjørn B. The AIDS Epidemic in a Low-Income Country: Ethiopia. Human Ecology Review. 2007 Jan 1;14(1):39-55.

3.         Tadele G. Bleak prospects: young men, sexuality and HIV/AIDS in an Ethiopian town. PhD Thesis. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam; 2005.

4.         Gebreyesus SH, Mariam DH. Assessment of HIV/AIDS related risks among men having sex with men (MSM) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. J Public Health Policy. 2009 Sep;30(3):269-79.

Ethiopian Journal of Health Development

The latest issue of Ethiopian Journal of Health Development contains an interesting Special Issue on its 25 years history. The Special Issue also includes an Index.


From a problematic start, the journal is today the most important medical and public health journal in Ethiopia. Over the last 25-years, the journal has published 704 articles in 58 regular and 12 Special issues.


The Journal is an Open Access Journal, and all the issues can be viewed and downloaded at


Many readers use this online service. Each month about 500 visitors read or download full-text articles. The readers come from 99 countries and most readers are from Ethiopia, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, Germany, India, Australia, Netherlands and Switzerland.