ABS&Comment: Impact factor

Gretchen Whitney gwhitney at UTKUX.UTCC.UTK.EDU
Fri Jun 18 13:05:54 EDT 1999

TITLE:          Evaluating scientific performances by impact factors - the
right for equal chances
                          175: (4) 141-+ APR 1999

Document type: Review           Languate: German        Cited References: 61
Times Cited: 0

Background: Regularly the Institute of Scientific Information publishes the
impact factor (LF) that plays an increasing role when the scientific quality
of scientific performances of journals, single publications, scientists, and
research groups have to be evaluated in order to support them.

Questions: How valid is the IF assigned to journals, single publications,
scientists, and research groups? Have all these the same chance to be
evaluated? How can fairness of evaluation be increased? Can its validity be

Results: The value of IF equals the average number of citations per article
published in the preceding 2 calendar years in a journal. The criteria for
selection of citing journals and of those with an "official" IF are not
fully explicated. Although the citations have no equal units of measurement,
empirical findings confirm their pragmatic applicability. IF of journals and
even the citation rates of its articles are skewedly distributed to right
hand. Additionally, the citation rates of the articles within a journal
vary. Therefore, the IF of journals rarely equal the actual citation rates
of their articles. Usually, IF
overestimates the citation rate and quality of the articles. Its tendency
not to recognize low and high quality even increases when IF is administered
to individual scientists and small research groups, whereas it decreases in
large research groups. Under the premise that the extent of scientific
quality corresponds to the amount of information a paper adds to the state
of science, language, actuality etc. are confounders because English,
reviewing, biomedical, and actual articles have preferred citation rates.

Conclusions: Evaluation of scientific performances by IF is to be restricted
to journals and large research groups. Fairness demands comparisons to
homogeneous journals with respect to confounders such as language,
Principally, no journal should be excluded to obtain an IF if it fullfills
the minimum criteria of an internationally communicating science. For this
purpose they have to provide a title, key words, and an abstract in English,
a peer review system etc. Often journals are the centre of science cultures
that an able to generate research of highest levels. The users can
contribute to increase the IF of "their" journal and to we for the valid
application of this indicator.

Author Keywords:
impact factor, bibliometry, evaluation of scientific performance, quality of
research, scientific journals

KeyWords Plus:

Lehrl S, Univ Erlangen Nurnberg, Abt Med Psychol & Psychopathometrie,
Schwabachanlage 10, D-91054 Erlangen,
Univ Erlangen Nurnberg, Abt Med Psychol & Psychopathometrie, D-91054
Erlangen, Germany.



This article, unfortunately, is published in German thus limiting its
readership.  I have asked the author to provide a translation.  It has an
excellent literature review.

As the abstract indicates, there seems to be a widespread practice in Europe
of using journal impact factors as surrogates for actual citation
frequencies of individual articles.  As Seglen, myself, and others have
pointed out, this can be dangerous.  There is considerable variation in
citation frequencies within journals.  Using current journal impact data may
distort analyses of individuals.  The German word "aktuel" is mistranslated
to "actual" when "current" is meant.

The author's phone and fax numbers are :
(+49/9131) 853-2095         phone
(+49/9131) 853-6593         fax

The author's e-mail address is not included.

Eugene Garfield, Ph.D.
Chairman Emeritus, ISI, 3501 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Publisher, THE SCIENTIST, 3600 Market St,
Philadelphia, PA 19104 (www.the-scientist.com)
Tel: 215-243-2205 // Fax: 215-387-1266
email:  garfield at codex.cis.upenn.edu
Home Page:



More information about the SIGMETRICS mailing list