Biophysical Journal

A New Approach to Supporting References

As part of the continuous review of Biophysical Journal policies and practices, the Publications Committee discovered that literature references cited only in the online supporting material of an article are not properly cataloged in the Science Citation of Google Scholar indices. That is, references listed in the supporting material do not count towards journal impact factors or individual authors’ citation records, such as the h-index. These legitimate literature citations are only in the supplement because of space constraints, but they are equally important as any other references. The supporting material typically contains most if not all of the methodological references, which are often of signifi cant interest to biophysicists. In fact, we find that many of the citations in the supporting material are to Biophysical Journal articles or other articles authored by Biophysical Society members. While it is unclear how the supporting material references became second-class citizens in the first place, the Publications Committee felt that we needed to bring them to status equal with those in the main text. Regardless of the limitations of quantitative publishing measures, metrics such as impact factor and h-index continue to receive emphasis in the evaluation of scientific achievement. It is thus imperative that we provide fully accurate accounting of literature citations to inform such metrics.

At the Annual Meeting in 2010, the Committee charged the Journal’s production team at Cell Press to investigate the necessary formatting changes and to develop a technically feasible plan to implement these changes. The new plan was presented to the Publications Committee and Editorial leadership at the meeting this year, and we are happy to report that new procedures will be in place starting July 2011 that will give proper credit to all of the cited literature. As described below, the solution is to include the extra supporting references at the end of the main-text reference list, as well as to include their citations in the statement describing the supporting material. This change will place minimal extra burden on our authors, but will result in proper credit to all of the authors and journals of the cited references.


Beginning July 1, all submitted manuscripts should (a) include all supporting references within the main-text reference list and (b) cite the supporting references in a short blurb in the main text. These steps will ensure that all supporting references are included and cited within the main manuscript, which will allow them to be included in citation counts, as discussed above. The approach is briefl y outlined below, but please visit the newly updated online instructions, accessible through the Biophysical Journal homepage,, for details.

Including supporting references in the main-text reference list

  • Supporting references should now appear at the end of the main-text reference list, numbered accordingly. For example, if there are 43 main-text references and three supporting references, the supporting references would appear at the end of the list as references 44–46.

Citing supporting references in the main text

  • Supporting references should now be cited within a short section entitled Supporting Citations

This section should appear directly after the main text (i.e., before the reference list) and should be worded as follows: “References (XX–XX) appear in the Supporting Material.”

Dave Piston, Publications Committee Chair

July 2011 Table of Contents