A small field for fertile science: the low visibility of reproductive science in high impact journals

  • Francesca E. Duncan
  • Benjamin Derman
  • Teresa K. Woodruff



Our success as a field and as individuals in reproductive science and medicine relies on our ability to produce high quality work that has broad visibility and impact. A common metric for assessing such success is the quantity of publications that are published in journals with high impact factors. It is unclear, however, how frequently work related to reproductive science and medicine actually appears in what are considered the highest impact journals.


To address this gap in knowledge, we first determined how the field of reproductive biology in general compared to other research areas in terms of composite journal impact factor. Second, using a targeted search approach in the PubMed database, we examined the relationship between a journal’s impact factor and the number of reproductive research articles published per journal issue.


We found that compared to other major scientific disciplines, our field lacks journals with impact factors above 4. In addition, primary original research articles on reproduction—irrespective of male or female search terms—do not appear often in high impact journals. Instead, there is an increased percentage of secondary reproductive literature in high impact journals compared to topic-specific journals of lower impact.


There are likely several explanations for why reproductive science and medicine has low visibility, including the field’s small relative size, its lack of a specific disease and associated strong advocacy, and its surrounding social, ethical, and political unease. Nevertheless, there are concrete actions we can take to minimize the role of impact factor in our evaluation while simultaneously increasing influence through global awareness of the importance and need for reproductive research.


Reproduction Impact factor Male Female Gamete Gonad Ovary Testis Mammalian 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca E. Duncan
    • 1
  • Benjamin Derman
    • 1
  • Teresa K. Woodruff
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA

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