Current DFG Position Paper – Academic Publishing

19 May 2022

On 18 May 2022, the German Research Foundation (DFG) published a position paper entitled “Academic Publishing as a Foundation and Area of Leverage for Research Assessment”. Dr. Bernhard Mittermaier, head of the Central Library of Forschungszentrum Jülich (ZB), explains how the paper fits in with current discourse.

Current DFG Position Paper – Academic Publishing
Dr. Bernhard Mittermaier, Leiter der Zentralbibliothek des FZJ.
Forschungszentrum Jülich

Dr. Mittermaier, what is the background to this position paper?

In publishing the paper, the DFG is taking a stand on an issue that has been under discussion for a long time: what gives a publication its value? In truth, we all know the answer. It is the publication itself that is good or bad; that brings real news or merely presents familiar information in a new way; that should be absorbed if you are an expert, or that can be safely ignored. In reality, however, everyone focuses on the place of publication: does the journal have an impact factor, and how big is it? Is it even a Nature Index journal? This assessment of publications is then aggregated and also used to assess individuals and institutions. The position paper aims to expand this one-sided assessment of publications.

What consequences will the paper have?

In 2012, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) was a high-profile attempt to push back on the use of journal-based metrics in evaluation. The German institutions that signed the declaration include Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), and DFG. However, this DFG position paper will have a much stronger impact than DORA and will certainly bring about a renewed discussion of metrics in the Helmholtz Association. The question will arise as to whether it is right that the Helmholtz Association’s programme-oriented funding evaluation only asks for peer-reviewed journals listed in ISI or Scopus. It will have to be discussed whether it is right for publication lists to be compiled based on an “impact factor greater than X” – as happens in some institutions.

What does this mean for the journal market?

The position paper will indirectly contribute to ensuring that new (open access) journals do not continue to have an unnecessarily difficult time against the top dogs. As things stand, if a new journal does not have an impact factor, it is deemed to be unattractive for good publications. You can publish them elsewhere to greater “advantage”. If the new journal therefore only publishes “factory seconds”, it will not be able to raise its standard.

What services does ZB offer to counteract this?

The position paper rightly bemoans the fact that the existing large commercial research systems such as Web of Science and Scopus do not come close to representing the entire publication system. The open-source, non-commercial research system OpenAlex is currently being set up. ZB is participating in its adaptation for German institutions within the framework of the Competence Centre for Bibliometrics. We will also integrate the system into the Open Access Monitor and make it accessible to Jülich researchers, most likely in 2023 or 2024.


Academic Publishing as a Foundation and Area of Leverage for Research Assessment – Definition of challenges and fields of action (DFG position paper, May 2022)

Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)

Competence Centre for Bibliometrics

Open Access [A.1] Monitor


Your contact at ZB

Dr. Bernhard Mittermaier
+49 2461 61-3013
Head of the Central Library

Last Modified: 20.07.2022