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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2  

What is the impact factor of your journal?

Department of Community Medicine, Dr. D Y Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. D Y Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication8-Jan-2015

Correspondence Address:
Amitav Banerjee
Department of Community Medicine, Dr. D Y Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. D Y Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-2870.148818

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How to cite this article:
Banerjee A. What is the impact factor of your journal?. Med J DY Patil Univ 2015;8:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Banerjee A. What is the impact factor of your journal?. Med J DY Patil Univ [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Sep 22];8:1-2. Available from:

As an editor of the journal, this is one of the frequently asked questions I have to answer. Since the journal is not indexed with Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Reports it cannot possibly have a genuine impact factor. Such naivety (desperation?) is vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous elements. The purpose of this editorial is to educate the authors and the academic bureaucrats (if that is possible) about the drawbacks and dangers of relying on the impact factor as a measure of appraisal of academic faculty for selections and promotions, and the emerging phenomenon of fake "impact factors," which is driven by this "demand and supply."

In the 60's the journal impact factor was invented by Eugene Garfield. [1] After using journal statistical data to compile the science citation index (SCI), for many years, Thomson Reuters began to publish Journal Citation Reports in 1975 as part of SCI and the social sciences citation index. In the year 1992, Thomson Reuters acquired Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), which was founded by Eugene Garfield in 1960.

Impact factor is calculated on the basis of the average number of citations per paper published in a certain journal in the preceding 2 years. Since it is calculated over a period of 2 years after being indexed by Thomson Reuters, a journal, which is recently launched and which is not indexed with Thomson Reuters cannot possibly have an impact factor. If such a journal claims some "obscure impact factor" its credentials are suspect. It should also be realized that there are many peer-reviewed journals, which are not indexed by Thomson Reuters and therefore do not have an impact factor. Moreover, the impact factor was designed to help librarians identify the most influential journals based on the number of citations. It was supposed to be a measure of journal impact not individual articles or particular authors.

Over the years articles published in journals with high impact factor tended to have a favorable impact on the careers of academic faculty and the reputation of the parent institution. However, concerns have been raised about the use of journal impact factor as a proxy measure for the quality of individual articles. [2],[3],[4],[5] The Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons, UK has advised caution in using this approach as there is an element of chance in getting articles accepted in such journals since assessing the impact or perceived importance of research before it is published requires subjective judgment. [3] It stresses that there is no substitute for reading the article itself in assessing the worth of a piece of research.

Sir Mark Walport states, "impact factors are a rather lazy surrogate. We all know that papers are published in "very best" journals that are never cited by anyone ever again. Equally, papers are published in journals that are viewed as less prestigious, which have a very large impact. We would also argue that there is no substitute for reading the publication and finding out what it says, rather than either reading the title of the paper or the title of the journal." [3] Professor Rick Rylance, from Research Councils United Kingdom, adds that "there is no correlation between quality and place of publication in both directions." After many deliberations the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons concluded that research institutions should be cautious not to attach too much weight to publication in high impact factor journals when assessing individuals for career progression. [3]

Founder and Chairman of ISI and the inventor of the impact factor Eugene Garfield cautions, "In 1955, it did not occur to me that the impact would one day become so controversial. Like nuclear energy, the impact factor is a mixed blessing. I expected it to be used constructively while recognizing that in the wrong hands it might be abused." [6]

Whatever be the limitations of the impact factor calculated by the Thomson Reuters, there is an emerging greater threat to academic standards and integrity. This is in the form of questionable agencies, [7] which have started allocating fake "impact factors" to journals on payment that resemble the original impact factor. There is a happy symbiosis between "bogus impact factor agencies" and "predatory journals, [8]" which display these fake impact factors prominently on their websites. They depend entirely on each other for survival, and each drives the need for the other. Gullible authors and even academic institutions are deceived by these fake "impact factors." On the other hand, authors who are aware of the racket but are unscrupulous use the system to their advantage and manage to promote their careers using these predatory journals and fake "scientometrics" to their advantage. This is at the cost of their more illustrious colleagues who toil away unrewarded.

The insistence by academic institutions that each scientist annotates each of his or her publications with its journal impact factor (sometimes up to 3 decimal figures), is creating a need for journals with some "impact factor," however obscure. In some countries, publication in a journal with an impact factor below 5.0 is officially of zero value. [4] This chaotic situation has led to a desperate demand for "impact factor." One really wonders whether senior academicians who now comprise the academic regulatory bodies in India really understand how impact factor is calculated. Most of them who have risen to positions of "academic bureaucrats" are likely to have been far removed from serious research in their formative years since countries such as India and China have only recently responded (as a knee jerk reaction?) to the need for research output from their academic community. [9] Perhaps the younger generation is more familiar with research compared to their more senior colleagues (including how to exploit the system given the ignorance of their seniors).

It should be realized by academics and academic bureaucrats in these countries that worthwhile research cannot be produced on demand in an environment that has never been conducive to research. The haste and desperation, which follows as a result of such unrealistic expectations and regulations leads to "performance anxiety" among academics giving rise to unethical publication practices such as plagiarism, ghost authorship, gift authorship and now a mushrooming network of predatory journals and agencies which allots bogus impact factors for a fee. Is it any wonder that predatory journals and bogus impact factor agencies are mostly operating from countries where there is a recent change in regulations demanding academic faculty publish research papers overnight? Quantity takes precedence over quality. Unethical practices take precedence over scientific integrity. Unless some system is put in place to stem the rot (legal measures if required) proliferation of such bogus agencies will give rise to a generation of pseudo-academicians promoted out of turn who will become future policy makers. Eugene Garfield's prophecy that in the wrong hands impact factor can be disastrous like nuclear energy will come true in case remedial measures are not taken by all stakeholders.

  References Top

Garfield E. Journal impact factor: A brief review. CMAJ 1999;161:979-80.  Back to cited text no. 1
Ha TC, Tan SB, Soo KC. The journal impact factor: Too much of an impact? Ann Acad Med Singapore 2006;35:911-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. Peer Review in Scientific Publications. Eighth Report of Session 2010-12. HC 856. Published 28 July, 2011. London: Authority of House of Commons, the Stationery Office Limited; 2011. Available from:[Last accessed on 2014 Oct 02].  Back to cited text no. 3
Alberts B. Impact factor distortions. Science 2013;340:787.  Back to cited text no. 4
Casadevall A, Fang FC. Causes for the persistence of impact factor mania. MBio 2014;5:e00064-14.  Back to cited text no. 5
Garfield E. The Agony and the Ecstasy - The History and Meaning of the Journal Impact Factor. Address at the International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, Chicago, September 16, 2005. Available from: [Last accessed on 2014 Oct 02].  Back to cited text no. 6
Beall J. Misleading Metrics. Scholarly Open Access. Available from: [Last accessed on 2014 Oct 02].  Back to cited text no. 7
Beall J. Predatory publishers are corrupting open access. Nature 2012;489:179.  Back to cited text no. 8
The Royal Society. Knowledge, Networks and Nations. Global Scientific Collaboration in the 21 st Century. London: The Royal Society; 2011. Available from: [Last accessed on 2014 Oct 02].  Back to cited text no. 9


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