Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Fudging the impact factor

A journal’s impact factor can have an economic effect on its future. Libraries regularly use impact factors in cancellation projects during tight budgets. The impact factor is also used in hiring and tenure decisions.

Reports of abuses by journals seeking to boost their factors are not new, see:

“The Number that's Devouring Science,” by Monastersky in the 10/14/2005 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education (vol. 52, no. 8, pA12-A17)[UHM login required- if you have difficulties with this contact IfA Library]

But an item in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “
Science Journals Artfully Try To Boost Their Rankings,” spotlights this problem.

The impact factor sometimes seems like a robust neutral measure. But, in addition to weighting quantity over quality, it’s not an objective measure that can be used with uncritical confidence.