Journal Impact Factors: Part II

April 14, 2016

Dr. Jennifer C van Velkinburgh


Interpreting the Journal Impact Factor


While the IF can indicate the importance of a journal within its field, it is a problematic metric and must be interpreted carefully. First, newer journals have lower IFs, as they have not had a long enough time to garner as many citations of their collective articles as the journals with longer history of publication. Second, review articles tend to be cited more than original articles, and journals that publish reviews tend to have higher IFs. Third, there is known variation in JIF ranges and distributions between disciplines; to help counter this, the JCR provides subject category listings to give a focused comparison of what is a high IF in a particular discipline and/or field. In today’s industry of journal publication, the internet (e-publication) has expanded global reach of every journal. There has been a concomitant increase in people’s interest in reading and contributing to science and medicine publications. Unfortunately, not every person’s interests have been altruistic or pure. Publication is an integral part of a researcher’s career success – or survival. Researchers whose objective is primarily, or solely, to gain personal glory (such as those who are facing a promotion review deadline, or motivated by a monetary bonus for publications) without care for integrity of their data or perseverance of their findings, and businessmen out to make money (establishing flash-in-the-pan predatory publishers who seek easy revenue by charging a fee-for-publication to the former) represent a substantial challenge to publication ethics and integrity today. One way to combat these challenging populations is to look at the JIF calculated on a 5-year scale.