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What is Journal Impact Factor?

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Image by Atsutaka Odaira

The journal impact factor has influenced academic activity since its inception about 40 years ago. Originally it was developed by Eugene Garfield, founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (currently Clarivate Analytics), to assist librarians in selecting which journals to subscribe. Now it is often used as a metric to measure researchers and their study. In recent years, many have raised doubts about the shortcomings of the index. In this blog we will be writing about the history and what Journal Impact Factor actually is.

The idea of Journal Impact Factor was first mentioned as an idea in Science magazine in 1955. This paper is known to be the primordial source for the Science Citation Index concept. Five years later, Garfield initiated the Genetics Citation Index experimental project that led to the release of 1961 Science Citation Index. The creator said in 2005, “in 1955, it did not occur to me that “impact” would one day become so controversial.” The impact factor is like knife, a mixed blessing. It will be used constructively though acknowledging that it could be exploited in the wrong hands. Irving H. Sher and Garfield developed the journal impact factor in the early 1960s to help pick journals for the new Science Citation Index (SCI). They actually re-sort the author’s citation index into the journal citation index to do this. From this basic index, they discovered that the new SCI need to cover range of broad and widely cited journals initially.

However, they found out that if the index was calculated solely on total publication or citation counts, smaller but important review and specialized journals could not be selected. Regardless of size or citation frequency, they needed a simple method for comparing journals. Therefore, they created the journal ‘impact factor’.

So, what is Journal Impact Factor exactly? The impact factor of a publication is based on two elements: the numerator, which is the number of citations in the present year to any items published in the journal in the last 2 years; and the denominator, the number of applicable articles (source items) published in the same 2 years. The impact factor might just as simply be based on the papers of the previous year alone, which would be appropriate for quickly evolving fields much greater weight. Longer stretches of citations and/or references could be taken into consideration by a less recent influence factor, but then the calculation will be less current.

The concept of “impact factor” has gradually developed to define the impact of both the journal and the author, especially in Europe and to the World. To compare papers, it is one thing to use impact factors and quite another to use them to compare authors. This uncertainty has created various issues for Science World which will be explored in next blog. The knife has been used to stab a human rather than cutting a fruit.

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Written by Wanonno Iqtyider

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