What is the Impact factor, and is there any fake impact factor

Impact factor or IF is a well-known and widely used metric that measures a journal’s quality, importance, and relevance in its field based on the average number of citations to their articles. However, not all impact factors are reliable since some journals claim to have high impact factors and display them on the journal homepage without having scholarly publishing standards or being indexed by famous scientific databases.

These fake impact factors can damage the credibility and authenticity of scientific research and articles. So, to avoid misleading by such journals, you have to fully know and distinguish between fake and real impact factors before choosing the journal for your manuscript. This article will aim to understand the role and importance of impact factors and help you quickly recognize fake ones.

What is the Impact factor?

Impact factor, or IF, is a measure that reflects how often an article in a scientific journal is cited in a year. It is frequently used as an indicator of the relative importance of a journal in its field of science. Journals with higher impact factors are deemed more important than journals with lower impact factors. To calculate the impact factor, the number of citations a journal receives in a given year is divided by the number of cited articles published by that journal in the last two years. For example, if a journal gets 2000 citations in 2022 for papers published in 2021 and 2020 and published 300 citable papers during 2021 and 2020, its impact factor would be 2000/300= 6.67.

 Clarivate analytics annually report impact factor of various journals in journal citation reports (SJR). Clarivate Analytics covers over 12000 journals in various fields, including science, technology, medicine, social science, art, and humanities. Impact factor would be a helpful metric for comparing journals in a specific discipline or category based on the citation performance. It can assess the quality and influence of a journal or its articles based on their impact and select potential journals for publishing or reading based on their credit and relevance.

Advantages and limitations of impact factor

You can access impact factor from the Web of Science master journal list or SJR website, and it is helpful for:

  • Comparing journals published in a specific field or category based on citation performance.
  • Assessing the quality and impact of a journal or its articles based on its citation impact.
  • Choosing the potential journals for publishing your manuscript or reading its articles based on their fame and relevance.

However, the impact factor has some limitations:

  • It can’t reflect the quality or influence of individual articles or authors; the impact factor can only display the average performance of a journal as a whole.
  • Impact factors may be affected by different factors like publication frequency, size, scope, type, language, or field of a journal. These factors may not directly relate to the quality or impact of a journal.
  • It can be influenced by citation practice that differs between disciplines and cultures, including self-citations, review citations, or editorial citations.
  • Impact factors may be manipulated or misused by unethical practices like citation networks, forced citations, or predatory publishing.

So, it is vital to be fully aware of the strengths and limitations of the impact factor when you want to use it and decide about a journal. Due to its benefits and limitations, it would be wise to use other criteria and metrics to decide about the journal you want to read or choose to publish your article.

Is there and fake impact factor in scientific fields?

The fake impact factor is a term used to describe the practice of some fraudulent or pseudo-journals that pretend to have high impact factors without following the scholarly publishing criteria or being indexed by reputable databases. Fake impact factors can mislead authors, funders, researchers, and academic institutions who rely on impact factors as a metric of the quality and importance of a journal in a specific field. Fake impact factors can harm scientific communities as they can detriment the reputation and reliability of scientific research and journals and mislead authors into low-quality or pseudo-journals that don’t have proper peer review, editorial services, archiving, or publishing of their work.

The damages of fake impact factor for the scientific community and researchers can be classified as follow:

  • Deteriorate the reputation and reliability of scientific research and journals
  • Mislead authors into low-quality publishing or fraudulent journals that do not have proper peer review, editorial services, archiving, or dissemination of their work.
  • Waste time and resources of researchers, academic institutions, and other stakeholders who want to ass the quality and performance of researchers and journals based on citation metrics.
  • Disport scientific papers and knowledge bases by permitting low-quality or unethical research to enter the literate without proper checks or corrections.

How to recognize predatory or pseudo-journals with fake impact factors?

There are some tools and resources which will come in handy if you want to identify or recognize pseudo-journals:

  • The Directory of Open Access Journals or DOAJ: this website lists only high-quality open-access journals that commit to specific criteria and best practices.
  • The Think. Check. Submit.: This website offers a checklist of questions that authors can utilize to evaluate the trustworthiness of a journal before submitting their article.
  • The World Association of Medical Editors, or WAME: documents predatory or pseudo-journals and provides guidelines and examples on differentiating predatory journals from legal journals.
  • Check the Clarivate website for the journal listings, including the JCR, or ESCI lists.
  • Check the SJR list for the journal rankings in your field and the country of choice.

Final words

The impact factor is a frequent and reliable metric to evaluate the quality and importance of a journal in its field or category. However, as an author or researcher, you must be fully aware of the existence and prevalence of fake impact factors in the scientific fields and avoid using them for evaluation or comparing journals. Such fake impact factors can mislead researchers and adversely affects their reputation and credibility. However, you can avoid deceiving by pseudo journals by using some tools and databases, including the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), and the Think, Check, Submit Website.

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