|Year : 2016 | Volume
| Issue : 10 | Page : 701
The impact factor story: Part II
Editor, Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, Chairman, Managing Director, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd., Wadala (West), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Web Publication||1-Dec-2016|
Editor, Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, Chairman, Managing Director, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd., Wadala (West), Mumbai, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Natarajan S. The impact factor story: Part II. Indian J Ophthalmol 2016;64:701
This editorial is a continuation of the previous month's editorial focusing on the impact factor (IF) of journals. As I mentioned, this editorial explores the controversies surrounding IF, its uses, and how journals are “gaming the impact factor.”
The “Impact Factor” was initially created to help librarians in selecting journals to which they should subscribe. Instead, it has today become the unofficial measure of the quality of any journal – the higher the IF is, the better a journal is. However, it really is not that simple. There are various ways, the IF can be indirectly “gamed” or “manipulated.” For example, publishing more review articles instead of original research is one such way – review articles are cited more often than original research papers. Surprisingly, articles that review the work of others receive more citations than original research articles even though original research is probably a better measure of academic excellence. In my opinion, therefore, it would be unfair to compare the IFs of journals that publish original research and those of “review article only” journals.
Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, you have case reports: correspondence that highlights interesting and rare cases. As one would expect, not all case reports are likely to get cited as frequently as original research papers or review articles. As a result, many journals have now stopped accepting case reports and small case series. Does this mean case reports have no value? As I have mentioned, case reports and case series go a long way in validating data. Recently, it was interesting to see journals that usually have a “no case report” policy bend their own rules and be the first ones to publish case reports that highlighted the effects of the Zika virus – knowing well that these initial reports would garner a lot of subsequent citations. No one denies the scientific value of these case reports, and while such papers are definitely needed since they depict new information, their utility to the scientific world is blunted when these papers do not have open access, especially given their relevance in developing countries. One wonders then, whether it is only science and the dissemination of new path-breaking information that is at the heart of such journals. The focus area of the journal also can impact the IF of a journal. Journals that publish basic science articles generally rank higher than journals that focus primarily on clinical papers. This is due to the fact that scientific papers tend to cite only basic science papers and not clinical articles whereas clinical papers tend to cite both scientific and clinical articles.
Hence, at the end of the day, what is it that journals are chasing? Is this a true pursuit of scientific excellence or is this just another rat race to attain the highest IF – by hook or by crook? This is something that needs contemplation from both sides: the readers and the medical publishers. The journals must reflect more of what the readers and authors want and not entirely what is required to increase the IF. Authors, readers, and researchers should also consider all the aspects discussed in this editorial before judging any journal solely on the basis of its IF.
As Andersen et al. have concluded, the journal's IF is an imperfect tool for measuring the quality of articles, and its use in evaluating authors has inherent risks. However, in the present scenario, in spite of its limitations, journal IF can be used as a rough indicator of scientific quality in specific subject categories and for serious reading and learning.
As far as the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology is considered, over the past few years, I have come to believe that as long as a journal has the followings: transparency in the peer review process, the backing of an academically brilliant editorial board, and uncompromising attitude on editorial ethics; the IF will take care of itself and the quality of the journal will automatically rise.
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Andersen J, Belmont J, Cho CT. Journal impact factor in the era of expanding literature. J Microbiol Immunol Infect 2006;39:436-43.