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Creating an impact: Rubbing shoulders with the Journal Impact Factor.

By bioexact, Dec 2 2014 09:14PM

The journal impact factor (IF) was originally created to indicate which journals were most frequently used as reference sources to allow institutions to appropriately allocate library funding. They have since adapted an alternative use in assessing the quality of research produced by academics and institutions. Promotion may even be accelerated if a researcher publishes regularly in journals with high IFs.


Eugene Garfield first developed the idea for an index to identify well-cited papers in 1955 [1]. In a paper published in Science [1], he presented a method of indexing citations which eventually led to the concept of the Science Citation Index. Alongside Irving H. Sher, he refined his initial ideas to select journals for the newly formed index. This was achieved by simply sorting an author citation index into a journal citation index [2].


The IF, created by Garfield, allowed the comparison of journals that produced a different number of articles. It consisted of a numerator, the number of citations in the current year of items published in the previous two years, and, a denominator, the number of articles published in the previous two years [3].


The citation rate, though, can be influenced by a number of other indirect factors besides the quality of science, including: the scientific discipline; type of article (review or report); article length and subject area [4]. Review articles tend to be amongst the most cited papers. In 2007, seven of the top ten impact factors were for review journals [4]. Methodology papers, especially those that are used to replicate experimental conditions, can also attract a high number of citations. For instance, a paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry by Lowry et al [5], describing an assay on how to measure protein, has been cited nearly 300,000 times.


Therefore, to create a lasting impression with your manuscript not only is quality important but rubbing shoulders with the journal IF may also help. Increasing the number of citations your research will attract could make it more appealing to some journals.


1. Garfield E. Citation indexes to science: a new dimension in documentation through association of ideas. Science. 1955;122(3159):108-111.

2. Garfield E, Sher IH. New factors in the evaluation of scientific literature through citation indexing. Am. Doc. 1963;14(3):195–201.

3. Garfield E. Citation analysis as a tool in journal evaluation. Science. 1972;178:471-479.

4. Grzybowski A . The Journal Impact Factor: How to interpret its true value and importance. Med. Sci. Monit. 2009;15(2): SR1-4.

5. Lowry et al. Protein measurement with the Folin phenol reagent. J. Biol. Chem. 1951;193 (1):265– 275.


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