The field of scholarly publishing is both challenging and fascinating for many reasons, one being that it is essentially a technology-dependent industry, and technology evolves quickly. The rise of new web and social media-powered innovations such as Altmetrics have publishers, academic societies, independent journals, and researchers wondering: is it time to shake up the traditional journal impact factor metric? Many researchers and publishing professionals are responding with a resounding yes!
Below are two key industry changes for researchers to note about the evolving nature of this long-standing metric:
- 1) Many researchers are now tapping into the power of altmetrics:
Many editors and publishers feel that science is stuck in old/bad patterns, and it is time to evolve. For example, the impact factor metric, a way of ranking journals by calculating how often scientists cite papers, suffers from a statistical flaw: it relies on mean citations, which undermines its ability to make comparisons between journals. It should also be noted that the impact factor, like any other metric, can potentially be manipulated.
Also, with the rise of social media, innovations like the altmetrics concept,qualitative data that are complementary to traditional, citation-based metrics, citations on Wikipedia and in public policy documents, discussions on research blogs, mainstream media coverage, bookmarks on reference managers like Mendeley, and mentions on social networks such as Twitter, have gained major traction over the past decade. Many feel that the Altmetric tool demonstrates a fuller picture of research impact. View a primer to get a full sense for how altmetrics have been incorporated into researchers’ websites, institutional repositories, journal websites, and more.
- 2) Academic societies are moving away from use of the traditional impact factor metric:
In 2016 a leading academic society, the American Society of Microbiologists, eliminated use of the impact factor for their portfolio of journals, despite the fact thatmany scientists attempt to publish their work in a journal with the highest possible journal impact factor (IF). ASM echoed the sentiment that the IF continues to be widely misused in publication, hiring, funding, and promotion decisions. ASM’s press release stated the following:
“ASM journals focus on publishing high-quality science that has been rigorously peer reviewed by experts and evaluated by academic editors. The primary mission of ASM is to advance microbial science. At the recent Journals Board meeting that took place during ASM Microbe 2016 in Boston, MA, the editors in chief and the ASM leadership decided to no longer advertise the IFs of ASM journals. Our goal is to avoid contributing further to the inappropriate focus on journal IFs.”