WAEA Presidential Address Deciding Where to Publish: Some Observations on Journal Impact Factor and Article Influence Score

By Perry, Gregory M. | Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, December 2012 | Go to article overview

WAEA Presidential Address Deciding Where to Publish: Some Observations on Journal Impact Factor and Article Influence Score


Perry, Gregory M., Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics


This article provides the history underlying the journal impact factor and weaknesses of this measure to evaluate journal quality. The Eigenfactor and Article Influence Scores are suggested as an improved way to compare research quality and impact across disciplines. The network analysis underlying the Eigenfactor approach suggests the agricultural and natural resource economics profession can have a larger impact on the scientific community by directing more research effort towards interdisciplinary work. The Article Influence approach is used to develop a seven-tier system to evaluate research quality, to be used either to guide individual faculty about where to publish their research or to evaluate the research portfolio of a department.

Key words: article influence score, citation analysis, economic literature, impact factor, research

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

The discovery of knowledge is an important charge given to faculty hired into the ranks of academia. Faculty are expected to conduct research and disseminate that research through both professional and popular outlets. Indeed, a faculty member's rewards (from tenure to merit raises) are usually tied in some way to the quality of research he or she produces. Refereed journal articles are the central measure used to evaluate research quality, because in theory they are subject to an impartial evaluation of quality by peers. Nevertheless, simply publishing in a refereed outlet is insufficient. A scholar's prestige is tied to the quality of the journals in which his or her work is published and how many times that work is cited by others. The quality of a journal, in turn, is judged by how widely its articles are read and cited within the academic community. In the end, citations are the driving force in determining the quality of particular articles and entire journals. The push for greater accountability in how public funds are used in education has only intensified the focus on citation counts to measure impact.

Young professionals are usually familiarized with these concepts while still in graduate school. Once they have started in an academic position, however, the decision about where to publish becomes central to their research effort. Targeting high-quality journals means greater risk of rejection and lower research output. Targeting low-quality journals means more publications but generates little prestige. Both low quality and low numbers can doom a faculty member seeking promotion and tenure. Equally important, quality standards differ across faculty members and departments.

This article describes a methodology that faculty can use to evaluate potential research outlets or that can be used to evaluate research outputs generated by a department, college, or university. The approach serves not only to guide individual faculty decision-making but can be used by departments to conduct reviews of their research programs.

Citation Counts and Impact Factor

Although citation indices seem a product of the computer age, they actually predate computers by nearly a hundred years. The first, Shepard's Citations, was created in 1873 to allow lawyers to conduct legal searches of precedents used to establish case law (Garfield, 1979). Early attempts to index scientific literature were discipline-specific and limited to keywords. The need to search across disciplines and beyond keywords, coupled with an explosion in research output following World War II, prompted efforts to create complex index systems that could be maintained on computers.

Several pilot projects demonstrated the usefulness of creating more complex, computerized disciplinary indices of existing literature. In 1961, Garfield and his associates developed the first version of the Science Citation Index (SCI). The federal government initially funded this effort but ultimately decided not to pursue it further. Garfield decided to continue the effort in the private sector by creating the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). …

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