Numerous essays have addressed the misuse of the journal impact factor for judging the value of science, but the practice continues, primarily as a result of the actions of scientists themselves. This seemingly irrational behavior is referred to as "impact factor mania." Although the literature on the impact factor is extensive, little has been written on the underlying causes of impact factor mania. In this perspective, we consider the reasons for the persistence of impact factor mania and its pernicious effects on science. We conclude that impact factor mania persists because it confers significant benefits to individual scientists and journals. Impact factor mania is a variation of the economic theory known as the "tragedy of the commons," in which scientists act rationally in their own self-interests despite the detrimental consequences of their actions on the overall scientific enterprise. Various measures to reduce the influence of the impact factor are considered.
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