As editors of a journal with one of the highest impact factors in Brazil, Natureza & Conservação (the Brazilian Journal of Nature Conservation), we suggest that there are more imaginative, ethical and effective ways to increase these ratings than the cross-citation methods used by a cluster of discredited Brazilian journals (see Nature 500, 510–511; 2013).

In the past three years, our journal's impact factor has risen from 0.27 to 1.47. This is a result of inviting submissions from respected scientists worldwide to improve our visibility. We also recruit editors who have served on reputable international journals to guarantee the quality of accepted papers.

Brazilian science is steadily improving in quality and quantity, thanks in part to strong support from two national funding agencies, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development and the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (R. D. Loyola et al. Trends Ecol. Evol. 27, 585; 2012).

These agencies have set up committees of researchers from different fields to determine how impact factors can be used effectively to evaluate graduate programmes and to rank journals. In the process, they have standardized mean impact factors to take into account impact-factor variations between subdisciplines, thereby rendering comparisons between journals more meaningful.

Brazilian journals are ripe for development — all it takes is a rational approach to optimize their impact.