April 28, 2016
Dr. Jennifer C van Velkinburgh
Where to look up Journal Impact Factors
The IF for an article published in any journal is specific for the year in which that particular article was published in; for example, if a journal had an IF of 1.2 (low) in 2003 but an IF of 10.12 (very good) 10 years later in 2013, an article published in 2003 was published in a low IF journal and cannot be represented as being published in a higher IF journal. Articles published in the current year do not yet have a specific IF, but the most recent previous year is the best indicator. JIFs can go up or down year to year, and the change can be substantial, especially if a scandal hits the journal or the publisher, such as discovery of a fake peer-review scheme.
The best place to find IFs for any particular journal is the annual JCR published by Thomson Reuters. This original source provides the most in-depth information (detailed bibliometrics, statistics), but the current year’s JCR is available only by subscription. Many libraries, publishers and research and academic institutions subscribe. The second best place is the journal itself. As soon as a journal receives their most up-to-date IF, they publish it on their – and their publisher’s – website for marketing purposes (to attract more and higher quality submissions). Thomson Reuters provides a ‘badge’ image for presentation along with the official IF, but these can be – and have been – faked, so again, beware.
A plethora of free, readily searchable online databases of impact factors are available, such as Impact-factor.org (http://www.journal-database.com/). However, many bogus online databases that fraudulently award fake (or inflated) impact factors to journals for a fee exist. The popular Scholarly Open Access Forum (SOAF) blog published a warning about these types of sites, implicating some of the known offenders, in 2013 (http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/08/06/bogus-impact-factor-companies/) and again at the end of 2015 (http://scholarlyoa.com/2015/10/27/strange-website-claims-it-is-a-respected-citation-index/). Keep in mind, however, that even the SOAF site, a blog that is run by a well-intentioned party, has inherent weaknesses; specifically, it lacks peer review and presents criticisms based on reasoned opinion and not evidence, and as such cannot be solely relied upon.
As always it is best to go to the original source – the JCR by Thomson Reuters – or better yet have a trusted science/medicine literature expert perform the search for you, since they will be able to apply their theoretical and practical knowledge of the current industry of science and medical publication to find the appropriate JIF and provide an accurate interpretation of it.