DORA and the JIF

No, this isn’t a young Latina’s adventure story about mantequilla de maní (or crema de cacahuate, or one of the other translations for peanut butter). DORA is the Declaration on Research Assessment and is a call to action to put less reliance on the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). This is timely because the new JIFs for 2017 were just released this week.

DORA - logo@2x_withblack

            I particularly like the “general recommendation” of DORA:

  • Do not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.

It is a simple yet powerful message – the JIF (or any other journal metric) is not a measure of the quality and impact of any individual paper in that journal.

For 2017, the JIF for JGR Space Physics is 2.752, which is ever-so-slightly higher than last year’s JIF. A few notes about it:

  • Remember that the JIF is calculated only from citations in one year to papers published in the previous two years. It is an average of a highly skewed, non-Guassian, positive-definite distribution of a very small subset of full journal content.
  • I like to only quote the JIF to two significant figures, so this year’s value is 2.8, which, due to rounding, appears as a small improvement over last year’s 2.7 value.
  • There are other journal metrics out there and I haven’t yet seen these values for 2017.
  • The JIF for Space Weather is 2.9, the first time that that journal’s JIF is bigger than the JIF for JGR Space Physics. Way to go, Space Weather!
  • AGU’s few-year-old journal Earth and Space Science received its first JIF this year, coming in at 3.2. Awesome job, ESS!
  • The journal had significant growth in terms of papers published from 2015 to 2016, up by 42, which is more than 5%. The Scholarly Kitchen just had a post a couple of weeks ago stating that journal growth lowers JIF. So, the fact that the journals JIF went up means that the citations outpaced the negative impacts of growth.
  • Historically, the citation rate to articles in JGR Space Physics are rather constant with time, so that a ~10 year old paper has ~29 citations, on average. This is just how our research community likes to cite papers and it would take a massive cultural shift to alter this trend.
  • JGR Space Physics historically has a “cited half life” of at or above 10 years, which means that a 10-year-old paper with X citations will, on average, end up with roughly 2X as its eventual total citation count.
  • Nearly all papers in JGR Space Physics receive at least one citation, which is not the case for nearly half of the papers in the vast Web of Science database.

In summary, I think that the journal is doing very well. Thanks for continuing to support it. Finally, while the post was mostly about the new JIF, I’d like to leave it where I started, on the positive future outlook of DORA, in which we put the JIF in proper perspective according to its strengths and weaknesses as a journal metric, and especially stop using it to assess individual research articles or investigators.

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