Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Journal Impact Factor: Bibliometrics and the Journal of School Health

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Journal Impact Factor: Bibliometrics and the Journal of School Health

Article excerpt

This editorial examines journal impact factors (JIFs) and their relationship to make the Journal of School Health a more sought-after journal by those writing/studying school health-related issues. As an Editor (JP) of a journal, I sometimes approach potential authors regarding publishing their work. I remember periodically approaching health educators and asking them to submit their national conference poster or oral presentations to the journal for publication. Sometimes my colleagues would thank me for the invitation and then respectfully decline because the journal did not have a high-enough impact factor. They would state that they were going to try to publish the manuscript in a more prestigious journal, one with a higher impact factor, but if it was not accepted then they would consider this journal (Figure 1). This type of perception affects all school health-related journals. Among other problems, this step-down approach slows the publication of health research.


Impact factors have taken on an aura of being the "gold standard" for assessing the significance of journals and individual articles. Librarians and administrators in academia use and misuse JIFs. Impact factors were created to assess how journals are affecting research in a field by examining how often articles are subsequently referenced in other studies. In essence, references are acknowledgments of intellectual debt. However, impact factors assess journals, not individual papers or authors.

The phenomena of JIF started with Eugene Garfield, PhD, then President of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). (1) He was interested in bibliometrics, the study, or measurement, of texts and information. (2) He and a partner had created (in 1961), the Science Citation Index, a publication that identified the number of times authors had their articles referenced by authors writing subsequent journal articles. They found that by sorting the most highly referenced articles, they were able to identify a core group of large and highly cited journals. These journals were often journals, which published large numbers of articles (e.g. in 2004, Journal of Biological Chemistry published 6500 articles in contrast to the Journal of School Health, which published 54 articles). (3) Thus, in order to decide which additional high-quality journals to add to their Science Citation Index or Social Sciences Citation Index, they realized that smaller journals might not be selected if they based their evaluation entirely on article publication counts for specific journals. (1) Thus, they created the JIF, which permitted them to add to the number of important journals they tracked. They now track 5968 science journals and 1712 social science journals. (3) Some journals are not included in their lists of journals because they are seen as not significantly contributing to the research in their particular field.

The JIF is the average number of citations per article for a particular journal for a particular group of years. Each year, Thomson ISI calculates JIFs based on the following formula: (3)

Impact Factor for "Journal X" in 2004

Citations in 2004 of all articles published in "Journal X" in 2002 and 2003 Number of articles published in "Journal X" in 2002 and 2003

Thomson ISI examines all the citations of articles published in "Journal X" in approximately 7600 journals in its indices to obtain the numerator of the above fraction. The denominator is the number of review articles and original research articles published by Journal X in the previous 2 years. Two years was a somewhat arbitrary time frame selected for these calculations. Journals that publish editorials, book reviews, commentaries, and teaching ideas are publishing items not counted in the denominator of the JIF fraction. The perception is that the aforementioned types of articles do not add to advancing the research of a field. …

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