Is there more to Journal Impact Factors than the ups and downs, booing and wailing we see each year?

Thomson-Reuters Journal Impact Factors were published this week and the IBIS 2-year IF (the standard IF metric) is now 1.861, down from 2.361 last year, and dropping IBIS in the rankings to 4/21 in Ornithology (from 2nd).

Only two years ago we were joyous at being perched at the top of our subject tree, Ornithology. Last year we were second (trailing The Auk by the narrowest margins) and this year we find ourselves in fourth place. What does this mean?

The 2-year IF, as the name suggests, covers only two years of citations. Two years is not a long time and whilst it might be a relatively accurate measure for some fast-moving fields like medicine, things move at a much slower pace in ornithology with little dramatic changes in the field over such a short period of time. The 5-year IF is probably a more accurate measure for ornithology (and wider ecology) journals. Our new 5-year IF is now 2.172 and places us 3rd (from 1st) in Ornithology. Perhaps a 10-year IF would be even more appropriate as many of our papers of the last 10 years continue to be cited. Read more about how these IFs are calculated here.

If we look longer term, IBIS has for a long time been in the top group of Ornithology journals. The difference between any in this top group of journals in any one year can be as little as a handful of cites. So overall this means that we are continuing to do something right and our papers are being read and cited. We won’t be getting hung up on our current ranking knowing that we’re still up there with the best and we’ll be vying for the top spot as usual in the coming years.

And of course there is now individual article metrics in the form of Altmetrics, which IBIS now includes for all the papers we publish. Altmetrics measure more the immediate impacts of a paper and, like citation-based metrics, provide a list of traditional and social media, blogs, etc. linked to an individual paper. We’ve covered Altmetrics and the benefits of social media for your research and the value of blogging before.

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