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January 2014 - Note on Impact Factor

Volume 10, Number 1, January 2014 - Impact Factor - pp. 94




The Impact factor is a copyrighted term introduced by Dr. Eugene Garfield Founder and Chairman Emeritus, of the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) or Thomson Reuters and is exclusively employed for the journals covered by Thomson Reuters using the number of citations available in Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science Data Base. Since Web of Science is a subscription based data base maintained by Thomson Reuters and cannot be accessed free by general scientific community, its data regarding number of citations is not openly available for comparison. It is basically the average frequency with which the papers of a journal have been cited in a particular year or period. The annual impact factor is a ratio of citations and the number of papers published in a year. In general, the impact factor of a journal is calculated by dividing the number of current year citations to the source items published in that journal during the previous two years. Thus the procedure of abstracting and retrieving citations bears heavily on efficiency and the validity of information thus collected. Thomson Reuters also maintain another database called as Web of Knowledge. There have been several criticisms on the use of Impact factor and its effectiveness in ranking a journal and a reader can find host of other factors attempting to define factors to rank a journal. For example, one of the drawbacks of Impact factor is that review articles generally are cited more frequently than typical research articles. Highly specialized journal in new areas will obviously have low citation rate. Older journals will have more citations than newer ones since such journals have a larger citable body of literature than smaller or younger journals. All things being equal, the larger the number of previously published articles, the more often a journal will be cited. A five-year impact factor may be more useful in some cases and is be calculated by combining the statistical data available from consecutive five years period.

Moreover, small publishers or users or librarians usually cannot afford to have access to subscription based databases. But in addition to the databases maintained by Thomson Reuters, there are several other databases whose task is to abstract the papers published in the scientific and technical and maintain a record of citations used in the papers. Many of them are open and free for access to scientific community.

Among such database are Google Scholar, and SCIMAGO etc. that are freely available on web. The SCImago Journal and Country Rank is a portal that includes the journals and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the worldwide database SCOPUS ® (of Elsevier B.V.). This platform takes its name from the SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) indicator, developed by SCImago from the widely known algorithm Google PageRank™. This indicator shows the visibility of the journals contained in the Scopus® database from 1996 onwards and SJR can be accessed by anyone free on the web. In fact, in our opinion, such information should be open and stand for verification and scrutiny, anytime and anywhere for the sake of good and affordable science or research.


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