Journal Impact Factors: How they Really Effect Research & Where to find them

Oct 13, 2017, 13:42 PM by Melodi Moore

Earlier this year, members of the Research Services team explained the need for Understanding and Preparing for Publication Costs.  In that post, we included a link to the worksheet explaining the publishing costs for the top 250 journals to UTMB researchers submitted to within the last three (3) years.  Since that publication, we have been approached to include Journal Impact Factors (JIFs) on the blog also.

While JIFs have been described as “one of the publishing industry’s most contentious metrics”[i] by authors in a 2016 Nature article and condemned as a way to assess significance[ii] of published material by authors for the American Society for Microbiology Clinical Microbiology Reviews, JIFs are still used by many as influence research and funding as well as evaluate candidates for all kinds of positions in research[iii]

EMBO press states in a second article that “Although this metric was never designed for evaluating papers or individuals, rather for evaluating journals as a whole, the availability of the JIFs has turned it into a common tool for evaluating research”[iv] and explains that other metrics may better assess the impact of individual papers.  One such tool discussed by the authors is the new NIH developed the Relative Citation Ratio (RCR). The RCR is used to normalize citations by using co-citations to generate the reference set.  Other metrics proffered include Elsevier and online databases such as Index Copernicus and VINTI, and the SCIMago Journal Rank (SJR) indicator which uses a complex algorithm based on “citation weighting schemes and eigenvector centrality”.

Although not intended for the evaluation of individual papers or individual researchers, JIFS are still the best for comparing journals and their original purpose of informing libraries as a method to use to select journals for their holdings.

Here at UTMB, the Moody Medical Library provides an easy method for finding each journal’s JIF while sitting at your desk with the minimum keystrokes.  To find this, users can log into the MML website and under Databases and the “Find by Name” selection, scroll down to “Impact Factors”. 

Library website

Once there, Incites© will allow users to search for and compare journals, see journals by rank and view multiple JIFS as well as some of the more recently recommended alternative metrics.  


If you have questions on how to use Incites or the MML website, the Library Liaison program is available to every department on campus.