Chronicle of Higher Education Impact Factor Article

Stevan Harnad harnad at ECS.SOTON.AC.UK
Mon Oct 10 18:15:26 EDT 2005

On Mon, 10 Oct 2005, Stephen J Bensman wrote:

>> SH: yes, CIFs are being misused and abused currently, but the cure is
>> already obvious -- and a wealth of powerful new resources are on the way
>> for measuring and analyzing research usage and impact online, including
>> ... [snip]
>> Meanwhile, use the direct citation counts, not the CIFs [journal average
>> impact factors]

> SJB: Oh, if only it were that simple, but it ain't. You have fuzzy sets causing
> extraneous citations and difficulties in defining article types.  The
> entire thing is wracked with Abe Bookstein's ambiguity.  I think that you
> should really study very carefully what Gene Garfield has written on the
> topic.

I yield to no one in my admiration for Gene, but he was not writing in the
online age. I am speaking of a (not-too-distant) day when the full-texts
(including tagged reference lists) of all 2.5 million articles in all of the
planet's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals (not just c. 8000 indexed currently
by ISI) are all online, Open Access (OA), harvestable, and analysable
by anyone and everyone. You name the artifact, and an algorithm will be
quickly designed to detect and correct for it, on the entire OA database.

If you wish to challenge this, it would be very helpful if you could
reply with a specific artifact that could not be detected and corrected
on a full-text Open Access database. (The CHE article, after all, was
talking -- over and over -- about one simple, obviously soluble problem:
using Journal impact factors to evaluate individuals' work. Surely direct
citation counts are preferable -- and the far richer and more diverse
regression equation I sketched is more preferable still.)

Stevan Harnad

> Stevan Harnad <harnad at ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>> on 10/10/2005
> 03:07:26 PM
>     Comment on:
>     Richard Monastersky, The Number That's Devouring Science,
>     Ahronicle of Higher Education, October 1, 2005
>     [text appended at the end of the comment]
>         Impact Analysis in the PostGutenberg Era
> Although Richard Monasterky describes a real problem -- the abuse of
> journal impact factors -- its solution is so obvious one hardly required
> so many words on the subject:
> A journal's citation impact factor (CIF) is the average number of
> citations received by articles in that journal (ISI -- somewhat
> arbitrarily -- calculates CIFs on the basis of the preceding two
> years, although other time-windows may also be informative; see
> )
> There is an undeniable relationship between the usefulness of an
> article and how many other articles use and hence cite it. Hence CIF
> does measure the average usefulness of the articles in a journal. But
> there are three problems with the way CIF itself is used, each of them
> readily correctable:
>     (1) A measure of the average usefulness of the articles in the journal
>     in which a given article appears is no substitute for the actual
>     usefulness of each article itself: In other words, the journal CIF is
>     merely a crude and indirect measure of usefulness; each article's own
>     citation count is the far more direct and accurate measure. (Using
>     the CIF instead of an article's own citation count [or the average
>     citation count for the author] for evaluation and comparison is
>     like using the average marks for the school from which a candidate
>     graduated, rather than the actual marks of the candidate.)
>     (2) Whether comparing CIFs or direct article/author citation counts,
>     one must always compare like with like. There is no point comparing
>     either CIFs between journals in different fields, or citation counts
>     for articles/authors in different fields. (No one has yet bothered
>     to develop a normalised citation count, adjusting for different
>     baseline citation levels and variability in different fields. It
>     could easily be done, but it has not been -- or if it has been done,
>     it was in an obscure scholarly article, but not applied by the actual
>     daily users of CIFs or citation counts today.)
>     (3) Both CIFs and citation counts can be distorted and abused. Authors
>     can self-cite, or cite their friends; some journal editors can and do
>     encourage self-citing their journal. These malpractices are deplorable,
>     but most are also detectable, and then name-and-shame-able and
>     correctable. ISI could do a better job policing them, but soon the
>     playing field will widen, for as authors make their articles open
>     access online, other harvesters -- such as citebase and citeseer
>     and even google scholar -- will be able to harvest and calculate
>     citation counts, and average, compare, expose, enrich and correct
>     them in powerful ways that were in the inconceivable in the Gutenberg
>     era:.
> So, yes, CIFs are being misused and abused currently, but the cure is
> already obvious -- and wealth of powerful new resources are on the way
> for measuring and analyzing
> research usage and impact online, including (1) download counts, (2)
> co-citation
> counts (co-cited with, co-cited by), (3) hub/authority ranks (authorities
> are highly cited papers cited by many highly cited papers; hubs cite
> many authorities), (4) download/citation correlations and other time-series
> analyses, (5) download growth-curve and peak latency scores, (6) citation
> growth-curve and peak-latency scores, (7) download/citation longevity
> scores,
> (8) co-text analysis (comparing similar texts, extrapolating directional
> trends), and much more. It will no longer be just CIFs and citation counts
> but a rich multiple regression equation, with many weighted predictor
> variables based on these new measures. And they will be available both
> for navigators and evaluators online, and based not just on the current ISI
> database but on all of the peer-reviewed research literature.
> Meanwhile, use the direct citation counts, not the CIFs.
> Some self-citations follow (and then the CHE article's text):
> Brody,  T. (2003) Citebase Search: Autonomous Citation Database for e-print
> Archives,  sinn03 Conference on Worldwide Coherent Workforce,  Satisfied
> Users -
> New Services For Scientific Information,  Oldenburg,  Germany,  September
> 2003
> Brody,  T. (2004) Citation Analysis in the Open Access World Interactive
> Media
> International
> Brody,  T. ,  Harnad,  S. and Carr,  L. (2005) Earlier Web Usage Statistics
> as
> Predictors of Later Citation Impact. Journal of the American Association
> for
> Information Science and Technology (JASIST,  in press).
> Hajjem,  C., Gingras, Y., Brody, T., Carr, L. & Harnad, S. (2005) Across
> Disciplines, Open Access Increases Citation Impact. (manuscript in
> preparation).
> Hajjem,  C. (2005) Analyse de la variation de pourcentages d'articles en
> accès
> libre en fonction de taux de citations
> Harnad,  S. and Brody,  T. (2004a) Comparing the Impact of Open Access (OA)
> vs.
> Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals. D-Lib Magazine,  Vol. 10 No. 6
> Harnad,  S. and Brody,  T. (2004) Prior evidence that downloads predict
> citations. British Medical Journal online.
> Harnad,  S. and Carr,  L. (2000) Integrating,  Navigating and Analyzing
> Eprint
> Archives Through Open Citation Linking (the OpCit Project). Current Science
> 79(5):pp. 629-638.
> Harnad,  S. ,  Brody,  T. ,  Vallieres,  F. ,  Carr,  L. ,  Hitchcock,  S.
> ,
> Gingras,  Y. ,  Oppenheim,  C. ,  Stamerjohanns,  H. and Hilf,  E. (2004)
> The
> Access/Impact Problem and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access. Serials
> Review,  Vol. 30,  No. 4,  310-314
> Hitchcock,  S. ,  Brody,  T. ,  Gutteridge,  C. ,  Carr,  L. ,  Hall,  W. ,
> Harnad,  S. ,  Bergmark,  D. and Lagoze,  C. (2002) Open Citation Linking:
> The
> Way Forward. D-Lib Magazine 8(10).
> Hitchcock,  S. ,  Carr,  L. ,  Jiao,  Z. ,  Bergmark,  D. ,  Hall,  W. ,
> Lagoze,  C. and Harnad,  S. (2000) Developing services for open eprint
> archives:
> globalisation,  inteeration and the impact of links. In Proceedings of the
> 5th
> ACM Conference on Digital Libraries,  San Antonio,  Texas,  June 2000. ,
> pages
> pp. 143-151.
> Hitchcock,  S. ,  Woukeu,  A. ,  Brody,  T. ,  Carr,  L. ,  Hall,  W. and
> Harnad,  S. (2003) Evaluating Citebase,  an open access Web-based
> citation-ranked search and impact discovery service. Technical Report
> ECSTR-IAM03-005,  School of Electronics and Computer Science,  University
> of
> Southampton
> Stevan Harnad

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