Counterfeit Impact Factors are Devaluing the Real One

International Journal for Pharmaceutical Research Scholars impact factor

Is this a valid impact factor?

The competition among predatory publishers is getting increasingly intense. For a publisher, one way to beat the competition is to ensure that your journals have impact factors.

Many researchers prefer to publish in journals with impact factors because they get more academic credit for their publications in impact factor journals then for publications in journals without an impact factor.

By “impact factor journals,” I mean journals listed as having an impact factor in Journal Citation Reports, a product of the company Thomson Reuters.

It can take years for a journal to earn a legitimate impact factor, and there are stringent guidelines that journals must meet before they are even considered for an impact factor. Thus, few if any predatory journals have legitimate impact factors.

Predatory journals can make it appear they have impact factors in two ways: they can simply lie and state they have an impact factor, or they can hire one of an increasing number of impostor impact factors firms that will “calculate” and assign impact factors to their journals.

The situation is getting out of hand. It seems that most predatory publishers now claim their journals have impact factors. For potential authors, it is often difficult to tell whether a journal’s claim to have an impact factor is bona fide or not. The Thomson Reuters database that contains all the impact factor listings is proprietary — your university has to pay for access, and it’s not cheap.

I now publish a list of questionable companies that supply impact factors to journals. As in the image above, journals typically prominently state they have an impact factor, but they don’t prominently name the source of their impact factor.

Some have argued against using the impact factor as a measure of scholarly impact. Universal acceptance of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment would certainly solve this problem I describe here.

Still, I’ve learned that the impact factor is valuable in many countries where cronyism, corruption, and nepotism influence academic assessment. The impact factor — which is external and objective — is the most important academic metric in many countries, and the San Francisco Declaration probably won’t change this.

However, the dilution of the legitimate impact factor, that is, the current proliferation of counterfeit and impostor impact factors, may indeed signal an end to the measure’s value.

JPR Solutions Impact Factor

Are the impact factors this company assigns legitimate?


16 Responses to Counterfeit Impact Factors are Devaluing the Real One

  1. Yurii says:

    Ok, call me snob, call me whatever, but an impact factor of 1 in the life sciences is not much to brag about.
    Now, about SCI or SCI-E being proprietary you are correct only if you want to have actual number, but the list of indexed journals is free.

  2. AlexH says:

    Is not “Impact Factor” a registered trademark of Thomson Reuters? If yes, they should deal with this issue (but seem to not care). The other non-Impact-Factor metrics designed by the predators of predators are pretty much insignificant, but the false Impact Factor can deceive inexperienced researchers or adminitrators. For example, the Hungarian Scientific Bibliography (a national database of scientific publications used by university administrators and grant committees for assessing research output) still includes a good amount of predatory journals with counterfeit IF values. Maybe the situation is similar in other national databases.

  3. Alex SL says:

    First, I would like to stress that the obsession with JCR impact factors is misguided and problematic anyway. It has lead to citation cartels, editors requiring authors to cite recently published papers from the same journal, reviewers requiring authors to cite them, editors gaming the system by writing comments only to cite last year’s articles from their journal, and a systematic discrimination against researchers working in areas that by their nature don’t get a lot of citations.

    Just as an example, the floras and monographs written by taxonomists have obvious utility – for starters, they allow the end-user to identify plants and animals – but hardly any of the many end-users ever cite them. And even when they rarely do, monograph series and books cannot be part of the JCR anyway because they have to few issues per year or, as in the latter case, the concept does not even apply. This means that taxonomists generally get replaced with other types of biologists when they retire, leading to what is known as the taxonomic impediment, and the same happens in some other areas.

    So if impact factors become devalued, good riddance! Sadly, I doubt it.

    Second, any scientist who has a competent PhD supervisor and/or half way competent colleagues will quickly learn what the good journals in their area are, not least by looking at where the papers that they are reading have been published.

  4. bill says:

    The Journal Quality List maintained by Anne-Wil Harzing is a useful resource which combines various other lists.
    However on its site we note that:
    “The editor regrets to inform users of the Journal Quality List that Thomson Scientific Inc. have requested removal of the Journal Impact Factor scores from the JQL. Please destroy any previous versions of the JQL in your possession. Thomson Scientific Inc. remind academics and universities that they do not permit any republication or re-use of their Impact Factor lists. “

  5. P Canning says:

    Kudos for this article…this is harming the academia..must be stopped.

  6. Jurgen Ziesmann says:

    While I dislike the fraud … I would not lose one tear over losing the since years accepted but anyway meaningless impact factors all toether.

  7. Nils says:

    Some interesting thoughts on this and related themes can be found in this essay:

  8. […] He reports a surprising range of  misbehaviors, ranging from simple “poor quality” to faking impact factors to the spreading of misinformation.  Perhaps most colorful of all is the “hijacking” […]

  9. gaudart says:

    The international journal of health geographics, from the BMC group I presume, publish a lot of good paper in its field. In its web page, we can see an IF of 2.2:
    Furthermore, it is written “International Journal of Health Geographics is tracked by Thomson Reuters (ISI) and has an Impact Factor of 2.20.”
    but this journal is not in the JCR list. How can it be possible?

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