Now is the time of year when journal editors all over the world sit repeatedly clicking ‘refresh’ on their browsers. Up? Down? Staying the same? What will happen to their journal’s Impact Factor when the Journal Citation Report is published? I will be as guilty as everyone else, scouring the lists for my journals; celebrating those whose impact factors have increased, looking into the why for those who have gone down. Truth be told though, here on the subject-specific journals of the BMC series, our attitude to our Impact Factors might be a little different than other journals.
Although there is increasing discussion about the best way to measure the impact of journals and articles, the Impact Factors published by Thomson Reuters remain a critical measure by which journals and academics are judged. Unless, or possibly until, there is a seismic change in thinking, the Impact Factor of their target journal will be an important consideration for researchers and something that journals cannot afford to completely ignore, even if we think that there are better measures to assess the impact of individual articles.
BioMed Central publishes more than 260 journals, of which 66 make up the BMC series. The BMC series includes two selective journals, BMC Biology and BMC Medicine; BMC Research Notes which accepts all sound science; and 63 subject-specific journals spanning most areas of biological and clinical research. The policy of the subject-specific journals in the BMC series is to accept all sound science provided there is some advance in knowledge presented, which means that interest level is not a criterion for publication.
The subject-specific journals in the BMC series are realistic about the effect that changes in Impact Factors have on journals, changing submission numbers and affecting how the journal is viewed by the scientific community, and we will be delighted with any increases that we see. However, the ethos of the journals is to be inclusive, and what that means for our authors is that whether the Impact Factor of one of the journals goes up or down, the threshold for acceptance in that journal will stay the same. For us, increased Impact Factors do not lead to increased selectivity; in the subject-specific BMC series journals whatever happens in the next few days we remain inclusive – equally interested in the ground-breaking and the useful.
Last year BMC Plant Biology jumped from 3.44 to 4.35, causing much excitement for those working on the journal, but the approach of the editors to research articles and the threshold for acceptance remains the same. Likewise, in 2011, the Impact Factor for BMC Genomics increased from 3.75 to 4.20 and the editors have remained committed to our inclusive ethos.
And, of course, the Impact Factor is a measure applied at a journal level, which doesn’t reveal the full story when it comes to the influence that individual articles may have. Publishing in a journal with a high Impact Factor is not a guarantee high readership for every article, or high citations. Article-level metrics and measures of impact which move beyond citations, such as Altmetrics, give a different perspective on the influence of individual research articles. BMC-series journals without Impact Factors have articles which have received a great deal of visibility as measured by these scores; for example looking at gender differences in multitasking in BMC Psychology, and the genetics of wolves in BMC Ecology. Altmetric.com is also beginning to track when articles are cited or mentioned in policy documents, opening up another important aspect of the impact that an individual article may have on the community.
The new Impact Factors are almost upon us – a signal for the publishing world to swing into action whether the outcome is up, down or the same. In the BMC-series subject-specific journals we will be watching the results with interest, ready to celebrate or commiserate. But whatever happens, the fundamentals of what the journals are trying to achieve and our inclusive ethos will stay the same.