Positive and negative aspects of citation indices and journal impact factors

Abstract

The Hirsch citation index h is nowadays the most frequently used numerical indicator for the performance of scientists as reflected in their output and in the reaction of the scientific community reflected in citations of individual contributions. A few of the possible improvements of h are briefly reviewed. Garfield’s journal impact factor (IF) characterizes the reaction of the scientific community to publications in journals, reflected in citations of all papers published in any given journal during the preceding 2 years, and normalized against all citable articles during the same period. Again, a few of the possible improvements or supplements of IF are briefly reviewed, including the journal-h index proposed by Braun, Glänzel, and Schubert. Ascribing higher weighting factors to citations of individual papers proportionally to IF is considered to be a misuse of useful numerical indices based on citations. At most, one could turn this argument on its head and one can find reasons to ascribe an inverse proportionality relative to IF for individual citations: if a paper is considered worthy to be cited even if it was published in a low-IF journal, that citation ought to be worth more than if the citation would have been from a higher-impact journal. A weight factor reflecting the prestige of the citing author(s) may also be considered.

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Correspondence to Alexandru T. Balaban.

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Balaban, A.T. Positive and negative aspects of citation indices and journal impact factors. Scientometrics 92, 241–247 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-012-0637-5

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Keywords

  • Citation indices
  • Hirsch index h for individual scientists
  • Analogous journal-h index
  • Journal impact factor (IF)
  • Uses and misuses of IF
  • Weight factor of citing author(s)