Monday, April 16, 2007

Impact factors

Have you ever taken a few seconds to explore the impact factors of your favorite journals? If you've never done it before, I highly recommend taking a closer look at the ISI Web of Knowledge, especially the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). Whether or not you believe impact factors doesn't really matter--it's pretty interesting nonetheless.

For instance, the first article ever published with my name on it was in Organic Letters, which has an impact factor of 4.368 according to JCR. More recently, some of my work could be read in the international edition of Angewandte Chemie--impact factor 9.596. Does this mean I am slowly moving up the ladder of scientific respect? Well, there is actually a lot of debate about this subject, and some people believe that journal impact factors don't accurately represent the real importance of journals; would it be better to just use actual article citation numbers?

Before I move on, I think it is pretty important to understand how impact factor is calculated. Here is what goes into an impact factor calculation:



Using Angewandte Chemie International Edition as a real life example--in 2005 there were 11384 other articles citing articles from the year 2004, and 10620 other articles citing articles from the year 2003, for a grand total of 22004 citations. Divide this by the total number of articles published in 2003 and 2004 (2293) to get 9.596, the impact factor. Pretty simple, right? Well, the JCR reports a number of other interesting factors including the immediacy index (number of cites to "current" articles divided by number of current articles), journal cited half life (the median age of articles that are cited in the current year), and several graphs that condense some of this information.

Does the impact factor really measure the quality of a journal (or the importance of the articles published in the journal)? Well, it is true that some of the journals that I consider to be the best in the field have some of the highest impact factors. On the other hand, it's important to keep in mind that these numbers also reflect the latest trends in the literature. Availability of journals can be an issue, along with the amount of current interest and publication in a particular area.

Below is a condensed list of my favorite journals and their 2005 JCR impact factors:



10 comments:

Jordan said...

What about review articles? If you look at a journal like Chem Rev or Acc Chem Res, the impact factor is very high -- just because the papers get cited so much. ACIEE has a high impact factor, but I wonder how much of that is from the reviews they publish.

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