The Importance of Impact Factors

Here are some links to the history of the Impact Factor and some more detailed discussions of its usage and meaning.

Here is a Thomson Reuters link on Impact Factors:

And here is another on the history of the Impact Factor:

Journal Citation Reports are discussed and available here:

Note that you need to have a personal or institutional subscription to ISI to get access to the JCR database.

Another neat website is the one for journal Eigenfactor Scores:

The “motion graphs” are pretty fun.

The point of all of these posts about the Impact Factor is that, as much as we can roll our eyes at it and the other measures of journal significance, there are many people in positions of power that take these numbers very seriously.  They are quantitative metrics that allow influential people to compare the importance of your work against others based on where you publish and base, at least in part, their decisions on this information.  People like institutional administrators who make decisions about promotions and raises, managers in funding agencies, policy advocates (on all sides of an issue), and staffers for politicians.  We need to take it seriously, too.

So, are there strategies for increasing a journal’s Impact Factor?  Here are a few:

  • We could more aggressively push recently published papers at each other. I get emails from some colleagues when they publish a new paper, but not from very many; we could be filling each other’s inboxes much more than we do.
  • AGU could more aggressively push new papers at us.  I hope that you all sign up for the JGR-Space table of contents alert email, but AGU could look at your publication record and send additional alerts your way with a subset of newly published papers that more closely targets your interests.
  • Wiley could be more aggressively pushing new papers at us.  When we look at a paper online, Wiley could put up “ads” for other related papers, based either on AGU Index Term matches or on analytics of downloads and views.
  • Editors could suggest recent papers to manuscript authors for inclusion/citation in the paper.  We don’t want to gratuitously cite papers just for the sake of it, that’s dishonest and unethical. We could, however, do a better job at informing our colleagues about recently published papers.
  • Reviewers could suggest recent papers to include in the reference list.  This is a far better option than the “editor suggestion” one above; the referees are selected because they are experts in the field and should know (or be forced to look up!) the newly published papers on the topic.
  • Editors, reviewers, and AGU staff could work toward faster processing of manuscripts.  JGR-Space is actually the fastest of the JGR sections, but even we could do better.  This would certainly increase the Immediacy Index and, because of the upward trend in citations toward the mode year, would also most likely bolster the Impact Factor.

One thought on “The Importance of Impact Factors

  1. Pingback: Impact Factor Just For JGR-Space Physics | Notes from the JGR-Space Physics Editor-in-Chief

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