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Technical Issues in Publishing

Clarifying the differences between ESCI and SCIE journal indices


Andrés Pagán, Associate Editor

June 2022

Throughout the world, researchers and scientists are strongly encouraged to publish their work in academic journals. Among the factors authors consider when deciding which journal to publish in are, the quality and the impact of the research published in a journal. Indeed, these two criteria can influence how journals are indexed in the Web of Science (WoS), one of the largest curators of journal indices. In fact, a journal’s quality and impact will determine if a journal is indexed in the Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE), or if it is indexed in the WoS database at all.

Journal evaluation process

Journal publishers submit their journal for an evaluation that consists of three stages: an initial triage, an editorial triage, and an editorial evaluation. The first two stages evaluate the journal’s quality and check the overall scientific rigor and that the journal employs best practice policies. If a journal successfully meets the 24 criteria of the initial triage and the editorial triage, it enters ESCI. The third stage, editorial evaluation, assesses a journal’s impact based on 4 criteria, in addition to further quality measures. Journals that meet the impact criteria in the editorial evaluation stage enter the SCIE index.

In total WoS assesses journals based on 28 criteria; 24 select for journal quality and 4 select for journal impact. Journals that meet the quality criteria are entered in the ESCI index. Journals that meet the quality criteria plus the impact criteria enter the SCIE index. Note: journals that publish research in the social sciences or in the arts and humanities may be indexed in Social Sciences Citation Index or the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, respectively.

Evaluating journal impact

A journal’s impact is determined by its citation activity. Citation activity measures aspects such as the number and the sources of citations to a given journal, author publication history in WoS, the publication history of the editorial board within WoS, and the significance of the content the journal publishes (e.g., novel, unique, or enriching). A journal must meet and maintain the 4 impact criteria to be considered an SCIE indexed journal.

Index changes

Importantly, indices curated by WoS are dynamic, meaning that journals in their databases are continuously being evaluated for the 28 criteria and are subject to be moved from one index to another. For instance, a journal that is ESCI indexed and increases in impact will be re-evaluated for impact; if it successfully meets the impact criteria it will be moved to the SCIE index. Alternatively, a journal that is SCIE indexed but that decreases in impact may be re-evaluated and possibly covered as an ESCI journal.

The WoS journal indices, whether ESCI, SCIE, or a different index, are tiered and dynamic databases that can help authors evaluate the quality and impact of the research published in journals. Journals that meet the quality criteria are indexed in ESCI. Journals that meet quality and impact criteria are indexed in the flagship SCIE. Understanding the difference between ESCI- and SCIE-indexed journals can help authors identify appropriate outlets to publish their work in.

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