, Volume 79, Issue 3, pp 635–649 | Cite as

History of the journal impact factor: Contingencies and consequences

  • Éric ArchambaultEmail author
  • Vincent Larivière


This paper examines the genesis of journal impact measures and how their evolution culminated in the journal impact factor (JIF) produced by the Institute for Scientific Information. The paper shows how the various building blocks of the dominant JIF (published in the Journal Citation Report - JCR) came into being. The paper argues that these building blocks were all constructed fairly arbitrarily or for different purposes than those that govern the contemporary use of the JIF. The results are a faulty method, widely open to manipulation by journal editors and misuse by uncritical parties. The discussion examines some solution offered to the bibliometrics and scientific communities considering the wide use of this indicator at present.


Impact Factor International Scientific System Citation Count Citation Rate Journal Editor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, E. S. (1929), Periodicals for mathematicians. Science, 70(1825): 592–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brodman, E. (1944), Choosing physiology journals. Bull Med Libr Assoc, 32(4): 479–483.Google Scholar
  3. Bensman, S. J. (2007), Garfield and the impact factor. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 41: 93–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, C. H. (1956), Scientific serials: characteristics and lists of most cited publications in mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, physiology, botany, zoology, and entomology. ACRL Monograph no. 16. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.Google Scholar
  5. Cunningham, E. R. (1935), The present status of the publication of literature in the medical and biological sciences. Bull Med Libr Assoc., 24(1): 64–81.Google Scholar
  6. Fassoulaki, A., Papilas K., Paraskeva A., Patris K (2002), Impact factor bias and proposed adjustments for its determination. Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica, 46(7): 902–905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fuyuno, I., Cyranoski, D. (2006), Cash for papers: Putting a premium on publication. Nature, 441(7095): 792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Garfield, E. (1955), Citation indexes for science. Science, 122(3159): 108–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Garfield, E. (1972), Citation analysis as a tool in journal evaluation. Science, 178(4060): 471–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Garfield, E. (2006), The history and meaning of the journal impact factor. JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association, 295(1): 90–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garfield, E., Sher, I. H. (1963A), Genetics Citation Index. Philadelphia: Institute for Scientific Information.Google Scholar
  12. Garfield, E., Sher, I. H. (1963B), New factors in evaluation of scientific literature through citation indexing. American Documentation, 14(3): 195–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Glänzel, W., Moed, H. F. (2002), Journal impact measures in bibliometric research. Scientometrics, 53(2): 171–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gregory, J. (1937), An evaluation of medical periodicals. Bull Med Libr Assoc., 25(3): 172–188.MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  15. Gross, P. L. K., Gross, E. M. (1927), College libraries and chemical education. Science, 66(1713): 385–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gross, P. L. K., Woodford, A. O. (1931), Serial literature used by American geologists. Science, 73(1903): 660–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hackh, I. (1936), The periodicals useful in the dental library. Bull Med Libr Assoc., 25(1–2) : 109–112.Google Scholar
  18. Henkle, H. H. (1938), The periodical literature of biochemistry. Bull Med Libr Assoc., 27(2): 139–147.Google Scholar
  19. Huth, E. J. (2001), Authors, editors, policy makers, and the impact factor. Croatian Medical Journal, 42(1): 14–17.Google Scholar
  20. Lindsey, D. (1989), Using citation counts as a measure of quality in science: measuring what’s measurable rather than what’s valid. Scientometrics, 15(3–4): 189–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Martyn, J., Gilchrist, A. (1968), An Evaluation of British Scientific Journals (1 ed.): Aslib.Google Scholar
  22. McNeely, J. K., Crosno, C. D. (1930), Periodicals for electrical engineers. Science, 72(1856): 81–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Moed, H. F., Van Leeuwen, T. N. (1995), Improving the accuracy of Institute for Scientific Informations journal impact factors. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 46(6): 461–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Opthof, T. (1997), Sense and nonsense about the impact factor. Cardiovascular Research, 33(1): 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pudovkin, A. I., Garfield, E. (2004), Rank-normalized impact factor: A way to compare journal performance across subject categories. Proceedings of the 67th ASIS&T Annual Meeting, 41: 507–515.Google Scholar
  26. Raisig, L. M. (1960), Mathematical evaluation of the scientific serial. Science, 131(3411): 1417–1419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ramirez, A. M., Garcia, E. O., Del Rio, J. A. (2000), Renormalized impact factor. Scientometrics, 47(1): 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schubert, A., Braun, T. (1996), Cross-field normalization of scientometric indicators. Scientometrics, 36(3): 311–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schwartz, S., Hellin, J. L. (1996), Measuring the impact of scientific publications. The case of the biomedical sciences. Scientometrics, 35(1): 119–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sen, B. K., Shailendra, K. (1992), Evaluation of recent scientific research output by a bibliometric method. Scientometrics, 23(1): 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Seglen, P. O. (1992), The skewness of science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 43(9): 628–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Seglen, P. O. (1997), Why the impact factor of journals should not be used for evaluating research. British Medical Journal, 314: 497.Google Scholar
  33. Smith, R. (1997), Journal accused of manipulating impact factor. British Medical Journal, 314(7079): 463.Google Scholar
  34. Sombatsompop, N., Markpin, T., Yochai, W., Saechiew, M. (2005), An evaluation of research performance for different subject categories using Impact Factor Point Average (IFPA) index: Thailand case study. Scientometrics, 65(3): 293–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Van Leeuwen, T. N., Moed, H. F. (2001), Development and application of new journal impact measures. Cortex, 37(4): 607–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Westbrook, J. H. (1960), Identifying Significant Research. Science, 132(3435): 1229–1234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zipf, G. K. (1949), Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort. Cambridge, Ma.: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science-Metrix, MontréalMontréal, QuébecCanada
  2. 2.Observatoire des sciences et des technologies (OST), Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST)Université du Québec à MontréalMontréal, QuébecCanada
  3. 3.School of Information StudiesMcGill UniversityMontréal, QuébecCanada

Personalised recommendations