Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, February 23, 2006

OA improves impact factors for journals

Peng Dong, Marie Loh, and Adrian Mondry, The "impact factor" revisited, Biomedical Digital Libraries, December 2005.
Abstract: The number of scientific journals has become so large that individuals, institutions and institutional libraries cannot completely store their physical content. In order to prioritize the choice of quality information sources, librarians and scientists are in need of reliable decision aids. The "impact factor" (IF) is the most commonly used assessment aid for deciding which journals should receive a scholarly submission or attention from research readership. It is also an often misunderstood tool. This narrative review explains how the IF is calculated, how bias is introduced into the calculation, which questions the IF can or cannot answer, and how different professional groups can benefit from IF use.

Excerpt from the body of the text. Note the sentence I've put in bold.

Given the rapid growth of electronic publications, the online availability of articles has recently become an important factor to influence the IF. Murali et al. determined how the IF of medical journals is affected by their online availability. In that study, a document set obtained from MEDLINE was classified into three groups, namely FUTON (full text on the Net), abstracts only and NAA (no abstract available). Online availability clearly increased the IF. In the FUTON subcategory, there was an IF gradient favoring journals with freely available articles [PS: emphasis added]. This is exemplified by the success of several "open access" journals published by BioMed Central (BMC) and the Public Library of Science (PLoS). Open access journals publish full-text online papers free of subscription fees. BioMed Central (BMC) is an "open access" publisher in business since 2000. BMC hosts over 100 biomedical journals ranging from general interest to specialized research. More than twenty journals published by BMC are currently tracked by the ISI and over half of these have IFs available for the recent years. BMC Bioinformatics was assigned its first IF for 2004. At 5.4, it places the journal second in the field, only marginally below the traditional competitor Bioinformatics (IF = 5.7), which has a 20-years' publishing history and is connected to a major learned society within this field of research (International Society for Computational Biology). PLoS (Public Library of Science) is another example of a successful "open access" publishing strategy. It started publishing two open access journals in biology and medical research in 2003 and 2004 respectively. PLoS Biology was assigned its first IF of 13.9 for 2004. In the ISI subject category "biology", it is thus placed at the number 1 position of 64 in its first year of reporting an IF. FASEB journal at position 2 has an IF of 6.8, but has been in circulation since 1987. Similarly, in the other SCI subject category ("biochemistry and molecular biology")in which PLOS Biology is listed, it ranks at position 8 out of 261. Monitoring the development of such journals' IF will inform the determination of the online-availability bias in the future. This effect will increase in the future with the availability of new search engines with deep penetration such as Google Scholar, allowing researchers to find relevant articles in an instant, and then choose those with immediately and freely available content over those with barriers, economic and otherwise.