College of American Pathologists
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  Archives joins ‘giants’ on top 100 list


CAP Today




July 2009
Feature Story

Ed Finkel

The CAP’s Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine received a prestigious honor on June 16 when the Special Libraries Association presented it an award as one of the top 100 most influential journals in biology and medicine of the past 100 years.

Archives won the vote in a seven-candidate field in the Pathology and Clinical Laboratory category, with about twice the percentage of its nearest competitors, and the CAP’s journal was the only title in that subspecialty to make the top 100 list of the association’s BioMedical and Life Sciences Division.

“This is a tremendous honor for us,” says Philip Cagle, MD, the editor of Archives, who attended the ceremony to recognize the winning titles at the association’s 100th Annual Convention in Washington, DC. “This is a prestigious group of librarians, who are expert in this field, and therefore it is a high honor. We were selected along with quite a list of prestigious journals in other areas. Some of the others are giants in the field.”

Dr. Cagle says he relished the opportunity to be among the editors of those journals at the June 16 event. “What was most impressive was the prestige of all of the journals and various editors present,” he says. “It really emphasized to me what a privilege it is for Archives to have received this recognition.”

The Special Libraries Association is a professional organization of 11,000 subject specialist librarians, information managers, and publishing representatives. Its BioMedical and Life Sciences Division assembled an international panel of nine subject experts to compile a ballot for an electronic poll of the members.

Elsevier was named most influential publisher of the century and Nature received the honor as journal of the century, while the others named in the association’s top 10 included: New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, British Medical Journal, Science, American Journal of Botany, Journal of Zoology, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Journal of Paleontology, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Dr. Cagle credited others with helping the CAP’s journal to earn the honor: first and foremost the distinguished line of his predecessors and their talented staffs; the current Archives staff, consisting of publisher Robert McGonnagle, managing editor Patrick Kearns, and editorial assistant Katie Giesen; the CAP Education Department, led by vice president Constance Filling; and the journal’s editorial board.

“The three of them do a lot of the day-in, day-out, in-the-trenches work,” he says of the current staff. The editorial board members “have done a lot of the work on enhancing the quality of the journal, in terms of their work on the manuscripts, special sections, and other contributions.”

Beyond that, Dr. Cagle believes the association appreciated “our focus on the types of articles that are relevant to practicing pathologists, and bringing to them the most recent information, and the well-organized special sections. That has been a key thing. It is something that has, I think, made the Archives a must-read.”

Tony Stankus, life sciences librarian at the University of Arkansas and organizer of the top 100 project, says most of the winners were American publications affiliated with a society or a board specialty group. About half were independently published, like Archives, and half had signed collaborative agreements with firms like Elsevier, Nature Publishing Group, Wiley, or Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Overall, older journals performed better than younger ones, affordability did not seem to matter to the judges even in the current economic climate, and Stankus was surprised when it turned out that journals with the most total citations in a year garnered higher ratings than those with the highest average citations per year per article, often called “impact factor.”

The task of sorting out the top 100 was divided among three subcommittees: clinical medicine and allied health sciences, molecular and cellular biology (including journals of biotechnology and leading multi-science publications), and natural history.

In the clinical category, Stankus says the judges favored clinical medicine journals “with a long track record of being mostly right about the science, of being associated with people you can trust, of being called for in print or electronically day after day, of publishing a lot of papers including, very likely, researchers from your own institution.”

Those who participated in the three working groups as judges were “highly experienced librarians” with at least a master’s degree in library and information sciences—the equivalent of a physician being board-certified—and worked at major institutions where significant research was underway on the topic or specialty area, Stankus says. At least one member of each working group was from outside the United States.

The three experts who composed the clinical medicine working group were Sandy Kramer, of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Library; Patricia Thibodeau, vice president of the Duke University Medical Center Library; and Laurie Scott, of the Queen’s University Health Sciences Library in Kingston, Ontario. “The people who do this work and belong to my association are, quite frankly, some of the very best and brightest,” Stankus says.

To underscore the significance of the award for Archives, he says: “There are thousands and thousands of medical and scientific journals out there. Every day, medical and biological librarians with limited dollars, but with life-saving missions to help their doctors perform, have to decide how they are going to spend those dollars in a manner that ensures patient safety and furthers research progress and the steady and reliable training of residents and fellows.

“Medical and biological librarians are both the keepers of the tools that are needed and the recorders of what went right and what went wrong,” he adds. “Without the record they keep available, in print and electronic form, nothing of the past can be known for sure. Without the tools, nothing new can be discovered for the future.”

Ed Finkel is a writer in Evanston, Ill.