It is that time of the year when Impact Factor (IF) data are updated. As I finished retrieving the 2011 values (from ISI Web of Knowledge), I started looking at notable changes (upward and downward). Being a condensed matter physicist, I am focusing on those journals that are most relevant to me, but I am wondering whether similar observations to those expounded below are made in other subfields.
Let us begin, as usual, from the raw data:
|Journal||IF 2010||IF 2011||Difference|
|Phys. Rev. B||3.772||3.691||-0.081|
|J. Phys. CM||2.332||2.546||+0.214|
|New J. Phys.||3.849||4.177||+0.328|
|Phys. Rev. Lett.||7.621||7.370||-0.251|
On comparing with data from last year, the following remarks can be made:
1) Fluctuations from one year to the next can be as large as 25% of a journal’s present IF. A lot of those journals that posted seemingly significant gais last year, saw those gains almost entirely wiped out. Thus, for an Editor to make a lot of fanfare over a 10% increase on a given year, is at least imprudent. Conversely, an unexpected 10% decrease may just be a bump in the road, and should not prompt emergency strategic meetings of editorial boards.
2) The New Journal of Physics (NJP) outperformed its direct competition, much like it did last year, for the first time surging above the 4.0 mark. While two years in a row of solid increase are not enough to establish a trend, and therefore it is too early to tell whether the Editors of the NJP have really “cracked the IF code”, it seems to me that this is the journal to watch for, especially because it was the first to adopt a format which many believe will be eventually adopted by all science journals. At 4.177 it is already a fairly respectable publication venue. The question is, how close to 7.0 or so would it have to be, in order to be regarded as a serious alternative to Physical Review Letters (PRL) ? I think that as soon as the difference between the two is 1.5 or less, they will be considered equally prestigious by most authors.
3) If the NJP indeed continues to surge, to the point where it becomes indeed a competitor to PRL, I expect the following to happen:
4) Yes, I am repeating myself… so sue me, it’s Summer and blogging is slow anyway.