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How much difference does the science journal “impact factor” really make?


From Yan Wang, Haoyang Li, and Shibo Jiang at The Scientist:

Even as Eugene Garfield proposed the impact factor more than half a century ago, he had reservations. “I expected it to be used constructively while recognizing that in the wrong hands it might be abused,” he said in a presentation he gave at the International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication in September 2005.

Indeed, while Garfield had intended the measure to help scientists search for bibliographic references, impact factor (IF) was quickly adopted to assess the influence of particular journals and, not long after, of individual scientists. It has since become a divisive term in the scientific community, with young researchers still striving to demonstrate their worthy within the confines of an antiquated publishing system. In the meantime, waves of criticisms against impact factor have arisen, including the difficulty in consistent reproduction and the easy manipulation of its value (e.g., by encouraging self-citations). “In 1955, it did not occur to me that ‘impact’ would one day become so controversial,” Garfield, founding editor of The Scientist, said in his 2005 presentation. “Like nuclear energy, the impact factor is a mixed blessing.”

The discovery of citation rings may have propelled the topic to the top of the in tray.

The authors suggest a complex new metric but a commenter complains:

Assigning IFs to journals in the age of open access articles, countless journals, and Google Scholar Alerts is a pointless, anachronistic exercise in catching moonbeams. More.

Yes, that’s the question: What metrics are relevant to the world beyond the U library stacks?

See also: Peer review and citation ring ”busted.” What on earth is the science world coming to? We used to describe crack dealers like this.


Nature: Tough words re journal impact factors

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