A Comparison Study of Impact Factor in Web of Science and Scopus Databases for Engineering Education and Educational Technology Journals

By Chou, Pao-Nan | Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

A Comparison Study of Impact Factor in Web of Science and Scopus Databases for Engineering Education and Educational Technology Journals


Chou, Pao-Nan, Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology


Introduction

Impact Factor (IF) developed by Eugene Garfield is a grading system whose original purpose is to evaluate scientific journals and identify important journal articles (Monastersky, 2005). After Thomson Reuters Corporation intensively employs the IF to promote its products, such as Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Science Citation Index (SSCI), the IF effect dramatically influences the academic world. For example, two indicators for academic ranking of world universities conducted by Jiao Tong University are SCI and SSCI (ARWU, 2011). To make tenure decisions, some American universities even use the IF to evaluate faculty's publications (Gary & Hodkinson, 2008).

However, due to the heavy use of the IF in research, several scholars proposed warnings on the value of the IF. Seglen (1997) summarized many problems associated with the IF and suggested that the IF should not be used to evaluate research. Coleman (1999) strongly criticized the IF for its abuse in research and contented that using the IF to quantify journals' scientific impact was inappropriate. Therefore, whether or not the IF can be a reliable tool to judge researchers' works remains questionable.

Currently, researchers can obtain journals' IFs by using online tools in two databases. One database called Web of Science (WoS), Thomson Reuters's product, annually analyzes and pub lishes indexed journals' IFs (Thomson Reuters, 2011a). Another database called Scopus, Elsevier publisher's product, records the information of journal citations, but does not report indexed journals' IFs, which can be obtained by manual calculation for journal citations or other websites' provided tools (SCImago, 2011).

Recently, since WoS's reported IFs is commercial-orientated (i.e. payment-based Journal Citation Report), several scholars began to question its objectivity by comparing other databases' reported IFs. Pislyakov (2009) reported that the IF ranking of those indexed journals between Scopus and WoS was partially different. Grady and Hodkinson's (2008) study revealed that no significant difference on journals' IF ranking between WoS and Scopus existed. However, abovementioned studies only focus on the field of business and science. Little was known about engineering and education.

In order to add knowledge base regarding the IF issue in the field of engineering and education, the current study aims to explore the difference of the IF between WoS and Scopus for engineering education and educational technology journals. The study analyzes six engineering educational journals and seven educational technology journals which are indexed both in WoS and Scopus. One research assumption is that journals' IF ranking in two databases is related since one previous study yielded a similar finding in other academic fields (Gary & Hodkinson, 2008). The research hypothesis of the study is:

No significant difference exists for indexed journals' IF ranking in WoS and Scopus.

Literature Discussion Concept of Impact Factor

According to Thomson Reuters's official website (Thomson Reuters, 2011b), the definition of IF is "calculated by dividing the number of current year citations to the source items published in that journal during the previous two years". For example, if researchers attempt to obtain the IF of year 2011 for one specific journal, the calculation procedure is listed in Table 1.

Currently, Thomson Reuters's WoS annually publishes one report called Journal Citation Report (JCR) in which indexed journals' IF (SSCI or SCI) is reported. In contrast with JCR, Elsevier's Scopus does not produce any IF data each year. However, Scimago Lab (2011) freely provides a web-based ranking tool which allows users to obtain IF information in Scopus database.

Criticism of Impact Factor

Opth of (1997) strongly criticized the use of IF in evaluating researchers' academic works. …

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