The ‘quantum’ evaluation of scientific journals in Brazil

(Translation of the post “Avaliação de revistas científicas no Brasil é ‘quântica'”, March 16.)


The German publishing group Springer, one of the largest in the world in the academic area, opened Friday (Mar/13/2015) an investigation into one of its journals, the Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics. In a statement on its website, the publisher headquartered in Berlin said that “the scientific integrity of the journal cannot be guaranteed” since an internal investigation revealed “pattern of inappropriate and compromised peer review” of its scientific articles.

A Springer spokesperson said that the editorial group will not give more information on the subject while the investigation about the journal is not completed, reported the American blog Retraction Watch“, which monitors corrections and retractions of scientific journal articles.

The Springer group can not be compared to publishers of dubious reputation that have been a topic of this blog. The most recent post on this was Brazilian graduate programs accept 201 ‘predatory’ journals (Mar/09/2015). However, I found that with the “Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics” also happens an interesting phenomenon observed in some of the publications of these “predatory publishers” in its classification in Qualis Periódicos, of CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel).

At the same time that it received A2, the second highest rating in Qualis, the “Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics” also received the rating C, the lowest of all, which applies to publications that do not even meet the merely formal editing requirements.


It is also important to note the score 2.380 for its impact factor, which is a quality indicator that refers to the average of citations of articles in a journal. Compared to the Brazilian scientific publications, this number is second only compared to the first in the national ranking, “Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome” (2.500), and well ahead of the runner-up, which is the “Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry” (1.638).

To get an idea of what it means the table above, it is worth reading the article Qualis and editorial routine of scientific journals, published on Tuesday (Mar/10/2015) by the magazine “ComCiencia”, of UNICAMP, by Monica Frigeri, professor at PUCCAMP [Pontifical Catholic University of Campinas], and Marko Monteiro, from the UNICAMP Geosciences Institute. I copy here a passage that explains this.

“The Qualis rankings are published every three years, based on criteria defined by committees of areas of CAPES composed by members of the scientific community. Each area has its criteria for defining the strata of journals that can be A1 (highest level), A2, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 and C (weight zero)”.

This means that for some advisory committees of CAPES -—including two of biological sciences— “Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics” is very good, while for others —one of them also of biological sciences— the magazine is very bad.


In my conversations with some researchers on cases of bizarre classifications like this, referring to “predatory journals”, and not to the Springer journal, there was a running joke, inspired roughly in quantum mechanics. Roughly speaking, this theory explains that the observation of a phenomenon is influenced by the observer himself. (A good approach to this theory can be found in Telepathic Particles).

The joke is that, as well as interference in the observation by the observer himself referred to quantum mechanics, the evaluation of a journal in Qualis also seems to be influenced by the look of the members of the advisory committees of CAPES. On average, there was 20 consultants for each of the 48 committees of this Ministry of Education agency for the triennial assessment during 2010-2012, completed in 2013.

It may be that CAPES, its advisory committees and many researchers do not see anything funny in this joke. The problem is that it seems to grow increasingly the indignation of those who see nothing serious in this and other oddities of Qualis.