Five things you need to know about journal Impact Factors (Day 88)

Pencil writing impactI have made it my quest throughout my presidency to shine a light on chemical engineering.

So it made me very proud to see the latest Impact Factors for IChemE’s journals.

Not only have the Impact Factors of IChemE’s three leading journals trebled since 2003 but Food and Bioproducts Processing (FBP) also recorded an annual increase in Impact Factor of 23 per cent.

These improvements in journal Impact Factors follow the high quality research work being performed by chemical engineers.

However most people don’t understand what Impact Factors are, how they should be used, nor how they are calculated.

Here are five simple ways to use and understand Impact Factors:

1. What are Impact Factors?

The Impact Factor of an academic journal is a standard measure of the way the journal (and its articles) receive citations over time. Impact Factors are compiled by Thomson Reuters as a guide for ranking, categorising and comparing journals. They were invented by Dr Eugene Garfield and Dr Irving Sher in the 1960s as a means to help researchers choose which journal to publish their work in.

2. How do we calculate Impact Factors?

Impact Factors are calculated by dividing the number of current year citations by the source items published in that journal during the previous two years. Or put more simply:

2014 Impact Factor = # of citations of all items published between 2012 and 2013
# of articles and reviews published between 2012 and 2013

3. How should I use Impact Factors?

Impact Factors should only be used to compare journals within the same fields. Journals from different areas have different patterns of citation activity and thus their impacts are not comparable. If you use Impact Factors in this way they should help you identify the most prestigious journals in your field and the expected impact they could offer your research. However, you should not use Impact Factors to evaluate your work or anyone else’s; they should be applied strictly to journals alone.

4. What other methods are available to assess journals?

Impact Factors are not the only way to measure journal quality. Here is a good summary of the different metrics available:


5. Should I be worried about Impact Factors?

Getting your work out there and recognised is much more important than worrying about the Impact Factor of the journal. However, if you want to make sure your work reaches the largest audience finding a journal with a strong Impact Factor (for your field) can help.

I think every academic would love to be published in Nature or Science, but realistically the research work of chemical engineers is so specific this will only happen for the exceptional few. Aim for a journal with a high Impact Factor that specialises in your field of chemical engineering.

Journals in a library

Academic research in chemical engineering is often undersold and I think it is becoming increasingly important to make it clear how useful, interesting and exciting this work is.

I have felt for a long time that we need to do more to raise the profile of chemical engineering research and I am glad this is starting to happen.

If you have just had a paper published why not get in touch and tell us about your work.

One thought on “Five things you need to know about journal Impact Factors (Day 88)

  1. This is a very important topic but illustrates part of the huge gulf between academics and practising industrial engineers. I recently spelt a lot time working with a student as a vacation job doing a literature search. I used the student because much of the published information is not availble (at a sensible price) to those outside academia and major corporations.

    As your predecessor said at Hazards XXIV chemical engineers are in grave danger of talking to themselves and academics certainly spend a lot of time talking to the themselves. Even those of us who can be bother to try to join in the conversation find it very hard (and expensive) to do so.

    The internet has made access to information for the self employed and small business much easier but the world of academia is still very much closed to them. This is a significant disbenefit to both practising industrial engineers and academics.


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