Impact Factor

All about Impact Factor and its use in research

The impact factor is used by many as a stand-in for the relative importance of a journal in its scholarly field. Higher the impact factor, the better the Journal. The Impact Factor is calculated from the Journal Citation Report or JCR published by Thomson Reuters, a for-profit company. 


It was derived by Eugene Garfield who is the founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). ISI was then acquired by Thomson Scientific & Healthcare in 1992. It is renowned as Thomson ISI. In 2018, Thomson ISI was sold to Onex Corporation and Baring Private Equity Asia. They founded a new corporation, Clarivate, which is now the publisher of the JCR.

It was founded in 1975 and is derived from the Science Citation Index and the Social Science Citation Index. It covers about 11000 journals, from 2500 publishers, from about 80 different countries. 

Who controls the Impact factor(IF)?

It is monitored by the ‘Web of Science’. It excludes the journals that demonstrate predatory behavior. 

How is the JCR journal profile controlled?

It offers you far more than just a number. It summarizes a journal’s place in the network of scholarly communications so that you can make better informed, confident decisions. 

 How is IF calculated?

It is used to compare journals within a specified field and is not meant to compare journals from one field to the other. There is such a thing as also a 5-year IF, but this is used by fewer authors and librarians and is not as common. 

The formula used for calculating the Impact factor is:

IF for year X = Citations in X to articles published in X-1 and X-2

Articles published in X-1 and X-2    

For Example: 

2 years Impact factor = Total number of citations in last two years (500) / Total number of articles published (50)

Thus, Impact Factor is 10

How useful is the current IF system?

For many, it is the coin of the realm as to where to submit an article for an author or which publication to subscribe to. So the Impact factor is a solution to this dilemma. It provides a metric for this citation-based statistic. 

Whether IF be considered or not?

It is noticed that the Impact factor average out the citations received on all the publications of a Journal rather than considering each article individually. In that case, an exact number of citations is difficult to find out. 

Some other factors to be considered are:

  1. 1.         Year of Foundation
  2. 2.         Editorial Board
  3. 3.         h-index

How much IF is good?

 The points to be considered while deciding on a good Journal is: 

  1. 1.         Don’t compare inter-disciplinary Journals. 
  2. 2.         Journals should be compared within the area-specific category.

Though the value of impact factors should be compared within a specific field but generally impact factors more than 3 are considered excellent journals. 


Many people view the Impact Factor as having faults as

  1. 1.         It can’t truly measure the journal’s importance, as it is based on perception. 
  2. 2.         Journals are complex and it is difficult to quantify exactly where they stand compared to other Journals. 
  3. 3.         Of additional concern, is a single ground-breaking article can inflate a journal’s Impact factor for a couple of years and not spill over and have an effect on the journal or other articles.
  4. 4.         Editors, editorial boards, or even authors can knowingly self-cite the publication thereby affecting Impact Factor. 
  5. 5.         Business decisions like to publish based on reviewed articles or basis of invitation sent or elimination of certain content types may affect Impact Factor as well. 


It will continue to be important while being criticized by others. But it will have to grow and evolve within the system. Author-level metrics, institutional-level metrics, article-level metrics will ensure that this evolution happens more on that including Altmetrics later.

Parteek Bhatia | Associate Professor in the Department of CSE at TIET, Patiala.

Dr.Parteek Bhatia-Impacting Indian education with localized content

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