, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 195-206

Advantages and limitations in the use of impact factor measures for the assessment of research performance

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Abstract

Impact factor is a quasi-qualitative indicator, which provides a measurement of the prestige and international visibility of journals. Although the use of impact factor-based indicators for science policy purposes has increased over the last two decades, several limitations have been pointed out and should be borne in mind. The use of impact factor should be treated carefully when applied to the analysis of peripheral countries, whose national journals are hardly covered by ISI databases. Our experience in the use of impact factor based indicators for the analysis of the Spanish scientific production is shown. The usefulness of the impact factor measures in macro, meso and micro analyses is displayed. In addition, the main advantages, such as the great accessibility of impact factor and its ready-to-use nature are pointed out. Several limitations such as the need to avoid inter-field comparisons or the convenience of using a fixed journal set for international comparisons are also stressed. It is worth noting that the use of impact factor in the research evaluation process has influenced strongly the publication strategy of scientists.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.