ABS: Semenzato, The Impact Factor: deeds and misdeeds

Gretchen Whitney gwhitney at UTKUX.UTCC.UTK.EDU
Tue Jun 6 18:51:36 EDT 2000

Gianpietro Semenzato: giansem at ux1.unipd.it

See Extended Abstract below

TI:     The impact factor: deeds and misdeeds
AU:      Semenzato G, Agostini C
                                   17: (1) 22-26 MAR 2000

The authors have kindly prepared an extended abstract of their interesting
paper for the SIG-Metrics listserv.  Unfortunately they have repeated the
myth about 100,000 science journals.  I have discussed this in my article
... Garfield, E. "In truth, the 'flood' of scientific literature is only a
myth"  The Scientist, 5(17):12, September 2, 1991
(http://www.the-scientist.com/yr1991/sept/opin_910902.html )
E. Garfield.

Extended Abstract:
Sarcoidosis Vasculitis and Diffuse Lung Diseases is the Official Journal
of the World Association of Sarcoidosis and Other Granulomatous Disorders
(WASOG). Emphasizing the evidence that the Journal has risen its Impact
Factor for the fourth year in succession, we have made a few
considerations on the actual meaning of the Impact Factor in medical
literature and confuted most arguments that are commonly claimed by the
detractors of this bibliographic index.

Two facts are unquestionable: a) the most quoted journals are those most
widely read and distributed; b) a low or high international rating can
make the difference between success and failure for a Journal.  Everybody
experienced that it is more difficult to reach acceptance by journals with
highest Impact Factor, due to the high number of competing manuscripts. It
is also commonly accepted that journals with highest Impact Factor are
those that are forced to made a more accurate selection, with the ultimate
goal of choosing the best papers. Why should not we consider the Impact
Factor as an index of quality of manuscript published, and in turn shift
to the concept of the prestige of related authors? There are two lines of
thinking, people who strongly support this point of view (we belong to
this group), and those
who firmly disagree. People belonging to this latter group argument that
the highest impact journals mix research reports and reviews or publish
only reviews.

Sarcoidosis Vasculitis and Diffuse Lung Diseases regularly publishes one
or two reviews per issue but this is not the reason for which we consider
inappropriate the assumption that the publication of reviews makes the
Impact Factor misleading. In the computer era it is easy to verify that
the highest impact journals always demand the writing of a review to
opinion leaders who have published innovative research papers in specific
fields during the last few years. There is also a pragmatic reason that
explains the high citation rate of reviews written by outstanding
scientists. Since, by necessity of space, several journals ask the authors
to limit the number of references, most authors prefer to cite a recent
review on the topic they want to emphasize rather than all original
articles dealing with the issue under discussion. Of course, this fact
should not be considered as negative, for instance in referencing the
Introduction. The futility of the concern is also testified by the fact
that there are several journals with Impact Factors of zero or zero with
few decimal places which solely publish reviews.

We believe that the problem is not on the fact that journals mixing
research reports and reviews receive numerous citations but rather that
there are individual authors who cite reviews published in low impact
journals to corroborate their point of view!  Editors and Reviewers have
the duty of verifying the quality of publications listed in the
references. In this regard, it is also important to mention our experience
as members of the Editorial Office. The possibility of distinguish cited
from uncited publications has constantly helped our peer review process,
allowing the choice of reviewers. This consideration, which may be
extended to most Journals, testifies rather than denies the importance of
the journal ranking!

Actually there are also disadvantages in the use of the Impact Factor. The
first caveat deals with the transposition of the use of the Impact Factor
from the evaluation of a Journal to the rating of people. One single score
can not summarize a series of parameters to evaluate the many
qualities/defects of a research, and then its author. In addition, in the
case of academic evaluation, expecially when the rank is used for
individual promotion or grant application, it is sometimes inappropriate
to compare people working in different areas in terms of simple "numbers".
In fact, there are branches of medicine with high average scores (i.e.,
biology, immunology, etc.) and branches with low average scores (surgery,
ophthalmology, etc.). Thus, it is important to use this parameter only in
ranking individual scientists or groups of scientists (departments,
institutes, universities) belonging to matching categories. Furthermore,
another appropriate use of the citation analysis is in grossly
differentiating individuals or research groups with high Impact Factors
with respect to people or groups with low Impact Factors. On the contrary,
its use to judge national or international position of people or research
groups ranked with a high Impact Factor is largely imprecise and at all
vain. In synthesis we believe that the arguments utilized by the
detractors of the Impact Factor are frequently instrumental, since it is
clear that disadvantages in the use of this parameter are linked to a
misleading use rather than to an intrinsic defect.

 Document type: Editorial Material    Language: English  Cited References:
Times Cited: 0

KeyWords Plus:

Semenzato G, Univ Padua, Dip Med Clin & Sperimentale, Clin Immunol Branch,
Sch Med, Via Giustiniani 2, I-35128
Padua, Italy.
Univ Padua, Dip Med Clin & Sperimentale, Clin Immunol Branch, Sch Med,
I-35128 Padua, Italy.


IDS Number:


Copyright © 2000 Institute for Scientific Information

Cited Author            Cited Work                      Volume      Page

 ARNDT KA              ARCH DERMATOL                128      1249      1992
 BRODY S               LANCET                            346      1300
 CAVALLI F             ANN ONCOL                              10      1403
 DEJONG JW             EUR HEART J                           17        35
 GARFIELD E            SCIENCE                                178       471
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 OPTHOF T              CARDIOVASC RES                     33         1
 SEGLEN PO             BRIT MED J                            314       498
 SEMENZATO G           SARCOIDOSIS VASC DIF  12        93      1996
 SPERTI G              CARDIOLOGIA                             44        51

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