Not the Open Journal of Astrophysics Impact Factor

Yesterday evening, after I’d finished my day job, I was doing some work on the Open Journal of Astrophysics ahead of a talk I am due to give this afternoon as part of the current Research Week at Maynooth University. The main thing I was doing was checking on citations for the papers we have published so far, to be sure that the Crossref mechanism is working properly and the papers were appearing correctly on, e.g., the NASA/ADS system. There are one or two minor things that need correcting, but it’s basically doing fine.

In the course of all that I remembered that when I’ve been giving talks about the Open Journal project quite a few people have asked me about its Journal Impact Factor. My usual response is (a) to repeat the arguments why the impact factor is daft and (b) point out that we have to have been running continuously for at least two years to have an official impact factor so we don’t really have one.

For those of you who can’t be bothered to look up the definition of an impact factor , for a given year it is basically the sum of the citations in a given year for all papers published in the journal over the previous two-year period divided by the total number of papers published in that journal over the same period. It’s therefore the average citations per paper published in a two-year window. The impact factor for 2019 would be defined using citations to papers publish in 2017 and 2018, etc.

The Open Journal of Astrophysics didn’t publish any papers in 2017 and only one in 2018 so obviously we can’t define an official impact factor for 2019. However, since I was rummaging around with bibliometric data at the time I could work out the average number of citations per paper for the papers we have published so far in 2019. That number is:

I stress again that this is not the Impact Factor for the Open Journal but it is a rough indication of the citation impact of our papers. For reference (but obviously not comparison) the latest actual impact factors (2018, i.e. based on 2016 and 2017 numbers) for some leading astronomy journals are: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 5.23; Astrophysical Journal 5.58; and Astronomy and Astrophysics 6.21.

4 Responses to “Not the Open Journal of Astrophysics Impact Factor”

  1. There is nothing wrong with noting the average number of citations per paper in a given journal. Of course, decisions based on that should also take other information into account. The main problem with the impact factor is its use as a proxy for new papers (without time to have collected citations), the idea being that a paper in a journal with high impact factor is somehow worth more. However, the citations are highly skewed, for high-impact journals perhaps more than for others. In other words, a few papers account for most of the citations, sort of like the average income in a poor village with one billionaire being a million per capita per year: unless you are that billionaire, you are probably worse off than people in other villages. A better proxy for judging new papers would be the median rather than the mean number of citations per paper, which might be higher in journals with lower impact factors.

    Something similar is when hopeful starlets position themselves next to someone famous and a photograph is taken before the latter knows what happens. These are then used to increase the fame of the starlets: by being near those who actually are famous. (I know of one case where a magazine ran a photo of such a starlet with a famous person, and the famous person wrote a letter explaining that he didn’t know the starlet at all and described how the photo came about.)

    To the extent that one judges a person’s qualification based on their papers, or even just on citation count, the impact factor seems overrated. For someone who has been publishing for a while, one can just count the citations of their papers, wherever they were published. For others, there won’t that be many papers, and one can read them all and form one’s own opinion.

  2. “for a given year it is basically the sum of the citations for all papers published in the journal over the previous two-year period divided by the total number of papers published in that journal over the same period”

    Right, but your definition is perhaps a bit unclear; the citations are only those from the year in question. In other words, the impact factor for year n is the number of citations in the year n to papers published in the years n-1 and n-2, divided by the number of papers published in the years n-1 and n-2.

    So, to calculate your own “impact factor”, you can’t just divide the number of your citations by the number of papers, but only the sum of the number of citations for each paper in the two years after it was published by the number of papers.

  3. Peter: you should also ensure that papers published in this journal gets indexed in Scopus

    • telescoper Says:

      Yes indeed, but we need to have been publishing continuously for 2 years. Since we had a gap in 2017 we need to wait until 2020 to get listed.

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