Journal Impact Factor Shapes Scientists' Reward Signal in the Prospect of Publication

PLoS One. 2015 Nov 10;10(11):e0142537. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142537. eCollection 2015.


The incentive structure of a scientist's life is increasingly mimicking economic principles. While intensely criticized, the journal impact factor (JIF) has taken a role as the new currency for scientists. Successful goal-directed behavior in academia thus requires knowledge about the JIF. Using functional neuroimaging we examined how the JIF, as a powerful incentive in academia, has shaped the behavior of scientists and the reward signal in the striatum. We demonstrate that the reward signal in the nucleus accumbens increases with higher JIF during the anticipation of a publication and found a positive correlation with the personal publication record (pJIF) supporting the notion that scientists have incorporated the predominant reward principle of the scientific community in their reward system. The implications of this behavioral adaptation within the ecological niche of the scientist's habitat remain unknown, but may also have effects which were not intended by the community.

MeSH terms

  • Journal Impact Factor*
  • Publishing*

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.