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Reduced impact factor due to journal growth

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In a recent blog for The Scholarly Kitchen, Phil Davis describes how journal growth can negatively affect citation performance measures, most notably the Journal Impact Factor (JIF).

Davis outlines how a particular year’s JIF score indicates the citation level of papers published in the previous two years —Clarivate Analytics released the latest JIF score in Journal Citations Reports in June 2018. JIF is one of a range of citation indicators that can be used to measure the impact of a journal. Despite being criticised for some time now within scientific and publishing circles, JIF is widely used by authors, along with factors such as journal reputation, when selecting a journal for submission of their research. Consequently, a decrease in JIF could lead to fewer high-quality submissions.

Davis highlights that journal growth can reduce JIF because, for most journals, papers receive fewer citations in their second year than their third. Davis explains that “if a journal grows, its JIF calculation becomes unbalanced with a larger group of underperforming 2-year old papers and a relatively smaller group of 3-year old papers. The overall result is a decline the JIF score. Conversely, a journal that shrinks can expect an artificial boost in its JIF, all other factors remaining the same.” He suggests that publishers aiming for journal growth should consider doing this strategically, in order to avoid artificially depressing future citation scores. This could include focussing on growth at the beginning of the calendar year. However, balancing this with production schedules and the needs of authors may be far from simple!


Summary by Sophie Boyd, MSc Science Communication student at the University of Manchester. Contact Sophie at


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