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The Journal Impact Factor and the Publishing Business

The Journal Impact Factor has been discussed, and criticized, for years. A recent Scholarly Kitchen article looks at another proposal for improving the impact factor (Optical Illusions, 21 July 2016). This is by no means the first suggested improvement to the impact factor metric – a search on Scholarly Kitchen itself reveals there are several posts on this topic each year.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the Journal Impact Factor is this. Most journals, from Nature to the smallest journal, seem to have a similar graph when number of citations are measured by individual articles in that journal. A few articles are cited a lot, followed by a very long tail of articles that get few or even zero citations. We all know this, but we persist in believing a Journal Impact Factor is in some way representative for each article in that journal.