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.