Date: 28 Jan 2014

The Disaster of the Impact Factor

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Journal impact factor (IF) is a value calculated annually based on the number of times articles published in a journal are cited in two, or more, of the preceding years. At the time of its inception in 1955 (Garfield 1955), the inventor of the impact factor did not imagine that 1 day his tool would become a controversial and abusive measure, as he confessed 44 years later (Garfield 1999). The impact factor became a major detrimental factor of quality, creating huge pressures on authors, editors, stakeholders and funders. More tragically, in some countries the number of publications in journals with “high impact factors” condition the allocation of government funding for entire institutions (Plos Medicine Editorial 2006). Based on the assumption that IF reflects scientific quality, the impact factor produces a widespread impression of prestige and reputation, though no experimental data support this hypothesis (Brembs et al. 2013).

The impact factor was originally conceived as a bibliome