Is Impact Factor here to stay? Knowledge Base

Cogent OA has written previously about the role of the journal Impact Factor as a measurement of published journal research, and the Impact Factor’s influence over prospects in academia.

With the rise of tools like to track individual article impact, is Impact Factor here to stay in the digital age?

The forever factor?

Many academics place significant importance on publishing in journals with a high Impact Factor. But is this really in the best interests of career researchers?

David Colquhoun offers an example:

“Imagine how you would feel if you were sent every year a spreadsheet that showed your publication score and financial viability, and showed these things for all your colleagues too. Well, you may say, there’s nothing wrong with knowing how you are doing. But imagine too that your publication score is entirely automated, with no attempt to measure the quality of what you are doing. And imagine that if your grants don’t cover your costs, you are in danger of being fired. And imagine that your meetings with senior colleagues consist of harassment about what journals you publish in, and how many grants you have, not a discussion of your scientific aims. Not so good, you may think. But this is exactly what has been happening.” [1]

The Impact Factor is therefore likely to remain significant as long as the academic community chooses to let it be so.

Even statisticians have argued, however, that using the journal Impact Factor (i.e. citation count alone) as a measure of quality assessment for individual journal research is a misapplication of statistical data. A report from the International Mathematical Union (IMU) on the use of journal Impact Factor claims that citation analysis is open to “subjective interpretation … [those who] promote exclusive reliance on citation‐based metrics implicitly assume that each citation means the same thing about the cited research—its ‘impact’. … This is an assumption that is unproven.” [2]

So is the Impact Factor an appropriate means of measuring quality?

An enduring and critical means of measuring quality remains that of traditional peer review. Thomson Reuters endorses the importance of peer review in judging academic research and does not advocate the sole use of Impact Factor to decide research quality:

“Thomson Reuters does not depend on the Impact Factor alone in assessing the usefulness of a journal, and neither should anyone else. The Impact Factor should not be used without careful attention to the many phenomena that influence citation rates, as for example the average number of references cited in the average article. The Impact Factor should be used with informed peer review. … Citation frequencies for individual articles are quite varied.” [3]

Impact Factor, therefore, is not (and should not be) the sole measuring stick for authors attempting to judge the true impact of an individual research paper. Rigorous peer review from specialist experts in their fields should remain the key measurement in ensuring methodological soundness and quality for research articles published. Furthermore, what might impact mean with the advent of the internet and open access publishing?

Measuring Impact in a digital age

The digital age provides a platform for research (and researchers) as never before, and open access publishing facilitates a global readership and a wide exposure for your work. Cogent OA has partnered with to bring authors enhanced article-level metrics for their work.

The rise of article-level metrics enables us to track and see the progress and impact for an author and their paper, so authors can click on the Altmetric badge and see the mentions from newspapers, magazines, blogs, social media and policy documents, as well as comments on post publication peer review sites.

As the first publisher to implement Altmetric’s updated details page design, Taylor & Francis Group users benefit from its enhanced functionality and the addition of new features such as a summary tab. From the tab, users are able to see bibliographic information, demographics for Twitter and Mendeley, and simplified ‘score in context’ information. Alerts are also more prominent, so authors (and anyone else) can keep track of every new mention of an article, via a daily e-mail summary.

Given the high and visible levels of engagement that can be indicated through such means, the value of these new tools can be considered alongside the traditional journal Impact Factor, in light of a changing world. Now you can track your own article usage, reach and discoverability through Cogent OA’s partnership with, allowing you to measure your individual impact as an author publishing for a worldwide readership. 

“The 2015 top 100 [Altmetric articles] demonstrates the growing influence of articles published under an open access license. 42 of the top 100 articles were published under an open access model, 18 of which rank in the top 50.” [4]

Read more in our press release here or take a look at our full journals list here to see how each article benefits.


Previous posts: 

Things you might not know about Impact Factor

Why is Impact Factor so important?


[1]  Colquhoun, David. 2015. 'How Should Universities Be Run To Get The Best Out Of People?'.

[2] Adler, Robert, Ewing, John and Taylor, Peter. 2015. 'Citation Statistics'. Mathunion.Org.

[3] Thomson Reuters. 2015. 'The Thomson Reuters Impact Factor - IP & Science - Thomson Reuters'. Wokinfo.Com.

[4] Altmetric. 2015. 'Altmetric's Top 100 Research Articles – 2015'.