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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 248-249  

Impact factor: The holy grail of research

1 Department of Physiology and Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, AIIMS, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication22-Apr-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ruby Stella Robert
Junior Resident, Department of Physiology and Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, VPCI, Delhi-7
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0253-7176.155678

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How to cite this article:
Robert RS, Gnanavel S. Impact factor: The holy grail of research. Indian J Psychol Med 2015;37:248-9

How to cite this URL:
Robert RS, Gnanavel S. Impact factor: The holy grail of research. Indian J Psychol Med [serial online] 2015 [cited 2019 Nov 18];37:248-9. Available from:


Evaluating the quality of scientific research is a tricky question, which probably does not have a single solution. Impact factor was conceptualized by Garfield as a step toward the same though he himself acknowledged that the impact factor by itself might not be the panacea for evaluation of scientific research. [1] A recent consensus statement, Declaration on Research Assessment, 2012 proposes to reduce the over-reliance on impact factor to judge a scientific contribution and also evaluation of the scientist himself. [2] The multiple limitations of impact factor as a bibliometric index include uneven contribution of individual articles to a journal's impact factor, technical bias including selective journal self-citation, not correcting for self-citation rates, inclusion of the specific type of articles and use of a short period like 2 years for computation of the index while a longer period might provide a better picture, limitation of the database used, preference for publications in English language, nature of specialty in which the research is conducted (younger sciences vs. established sciences, broader vs. narrower specialty, basic science vs. clinical science, etc.) and over-reliance on citation rate, which is an imperfect indicator by itself (for example, review articles would typically be more cited than original research articles and longer articles tend to be cited more commonly than shorter articles). [3],[4]

Greater dependence on impact factor has resulted in ethical as well as practical issues including benefits to selected journals, disproportionately large benefits to selected scientists, reduction in high risk research that leads to unexpected breakthrough findings, delays in the communication of scientific findings, and ethical misconduct by both researchers (authors) as well as editors of journals (for example, fabrication of data and promotion of self-citation in their respective journals). [3],[4]

It is easy to vilify impact factor based on numerous arguments. However, what are the alternatives available? Better processes and criteria to evaluate scientific research; reformation of review criteria for grant procurement, promotions, etc., concurrent use of multiple bibliometric indices such as impact factor, H-index and Eigenfactor; use of specialty-specific impact factors that better portray the position of the journal within its own specialty (thereby avoiding unfair comparison with a more broader scoped journal likely to have a better citation rate) and ethical research as well as publication practices might provide a sustainable solution to this vexing problem. [3],[4] Research in bibliometric indices is a necessity to provide a better solution to the over-reliability on impact factor as a bibliometric index.

   References Top

Garfield E. The history and meaning of the journal impact factor. JAMA 2006;295:90-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
Schekman R, Patterson M. Reforming research assessment. Elife 2013;2:e00855.  Back to cited text no. 2
Casadevall A, Fang FC. Causes for the persistence of impact factor mania. MBio 2014;5:e00064-14.  Back to cited text no. 3
Seglen PO. Why the impact factor of journals should not be used for evaluating research. BMJ 1997;314:498-502.  Back to cited text no. 4


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