Journal quality, an unexpected improvement of the JCR

It is odd to say, but for researcher the journal as an entity is disappearing. Scientist search for information in online databases and select from title and abstract information whether the article suits their needs. The days that scientists visited the library and browsed the table of contents of the most important journals to keep up with their field have long gone .

Still there is a lot of emotion around journals titles. Scientist want to publish their research in the best possible journal. Earlier this year the NOWT (2008) published a report on the performance of Dutch universities and there it was clearly shown that field normalized citation impact for each university correlated positively with the field normalized journal quality.
Journal quality versus Citation impact

Looking at this graph it is clear that there is considerable reason to selected the best journals in their field to publish your results. However, until recent the only widely available journal quality indicator has been the journal impact factor. There has been a lot of criticism on the uses and abuses of impact factors, but they have stood their time. All scientists are at least aware of impact factors. For years ISI, Thomson Reuters were in fact the sole gate keepers of journal quality rankings.

Over the last years a number of products, free and fee based, have tried to come up with new and competing journal ranking measures. SicmagoJR (based on Scopus data), journal analyzer from Scopus, and the data from Thomson’s own Essential Science Indicators of course.

This week Thomson Reuters announced that they will update the journal citation report. From the 1st of February we get a entirely new Journal Citation Report. From the press release:

  • Five-Year Impact Factor – provides a broader range of citation activity for a more informative snapshot over time.
  • Journal “Self Citations” – An analysis of journal self citations and their contribution to the Journal Impact Factor calculation.
  • Graphic Displays of Impact Factor “Box Plots” – A graphic interpretation of how a journal ranks in different categories.
  • Rank-in-Category Tables for Journals Covering Multiple Disciplines – Allows a journal to be seen in the context of multiple categories at a glance rather than only a single one.

It is highly unusual to see two updates per year for JCR. But it is interesting to to note how they are moving under the pressure of some competition.

NOWT (2008). Wetenschaps- en Technologie- Indicatoren 2008. Maastricht, Nederlands Observatorium van Wetenschap en Technologie (NOWT). (in Dutch)