How to distinguish real vs. fake Impact Factors
The Impact Factor is one of the main journal metrics researchers use to decide if they should publish in that journal or not. However, fake journals with fake metrics exist that try to fool researchers into submitting to a bogus journal. In this article, we will outline the main things to watch out for to ensure you’re submitting to a reputable journal with a trustworthy Impact Factor.
What is an Impact Factor?
Scientific journals have different metrics that measure and rank research publications. One of the main journal metrics is called an Impact Factor.
An Impact Factor (IF) is a metric that reflects the number of times an average paper in a journal is cited during each year. This metric is calculated annually by the scientific division of Thomas Reuters and released from Clarivate Analytics as an annual report as part of the Web of Science Journal Citation Reports (JCR). Only journals listed in the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) and Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) receive an Impact Factor.
The Impact Factor is typically calculated by taking the sum of journal publications and their citations within a 2-year window. This number is then divided by the number of citable items. Similarly, journals can also report the 5-year Journal Impact Factor which is the average number of times articles from the particular journal have been cited in the JCR.
Typically, higher Impact Factors indicate a higher-ranking journal. Thus, the Impact Factor is also a way to establish more prestigious journals. This is the primary reason why researchers aim to publish in journals that have high Impact Factor.
Impact Factor is one of the main metrics journals have that help researchers decide whether they should submit there, however it is not the only one. For example, SCOPUS journals also contain the CiteScore, which is the product of the number of citations to documents published in a 4-year period. There is also the Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP), which measures the average citations in a given year to papers published in the previous 3 years.
Additionally, the h-index is an author-level metric which has been adopted as a journal metric. It reflects the relation between the amount a researcher or journal publishes and the amount of times they’re cited.
It is important to keep in mind that not every journal will have an Impact Factor or these metrics available. To have these metrics, a journal must be indexed with Scopus or Clarivate which can be a competitive process. If a journal has not been selected for indexing, you may not be able to see these metrics.
What is a trustworthy impact factor?
The first way you can tell if an Impact Factor is trustworthy is because it will be transparent. A trustworthy Impact Factor from a reputable journal can be easily accessed using Journal Citation Reports from the Web of Science. JCR contains a full list of thousands of journals’ metrics, including their Impact Factor.
If you can’t find your selected journal or its Impact Factor in these databases, then it may not be trustworthy.
You will know if the Impact Factor from a reputable journal is real because it will contain other journal metrics, such as the h-index. Importantly, the Impact Factor will also be calculated using a validated and standardized formula.
What are fake Impact Factors?
Because of the rise of predatory journals, this has also created fake journals with fake impact factors and other fake metrics. Or, fake companies that pretend to calculate Impact Factor when, really, they are using misleading tactics to fool researchers. It is important for every researcher to be aware of these tactics and know how to identify real versus fake Impact Factor in order to ensure scientific integrity.
Predatory, or non-reputable journals, will pretend to have standardized metrics such as the Impact Factor and fool researchers into submitting there. For example, they will create misleading metrics and give you no information on how it was calculated. Additionally, the metric will have “impact factor” right in its name.
Two examples of fake Impact Factor metric calculators are Global Impact Factor or Universal Impact Factor, which are two fake Impact Factor companies. These are two of many such companies that scammed many scientists into bogus publishing.
Typically, they will claim to offer a publishing service but provide no information regarding their location or members of their team. They may also charge you to be included in the list. They will also use unverified measures to compute the citation score, such as Google Scholar Metrics, which does not filter for predatory journals.
Additionally, these fake Impact Factor companies and predatory journals are not validated by any scientific agencies or organizations.
Other things you can do to watch out for fake journals or fake metrics are:
- Check the review board. Fake journals with fake Impact Factor will typically not disclose members of the review and editorial board. Or, if they do, they are from obscure, unverified universities or unverified credentials.
- No address or contact information. If you can’t find the contact information or location of the journal, it is probably predatory and you can’t trust it.
- No peer review or submission requirements mentioned. Fake journals do not have a peer review process because they will publish anything for a fee.
- Their citation scores or Impact Factor increase every year. Because they are using unverified metrics or fake Impact Factor, they pretend they are a high-ranking journal in order to attract naïve researchers.
- High fees. Predatory journals with fake Impact Factor will ask for very high publication fees because they only want the money.
- Inconsistent issue numbers or articles. If there is an inconsistent pattern of publication (i.e., hundreds of articles published per day), it is a red flag and you should not submit your paper there.
How can you find a reputable journal?
You can ensure you’re submitting to a reputable journal by checking to see whether that journal is indexed in reputable databases such as SCOPUS or Web of Science.
You can also use a database such as Jouroscope. Jouroscope® allows you to search through over 36,000 peer-reviewed journals and provides details on each journal. Additionally, all Journals on Jouroscope® are indexed in at least one reputable database, including DOAJ, SJR, Scopus, Web of Science, ERIH PLUS, SHERPA Romeo.
You can also identify high impact journals using the below tips:
- Check the publisher and ensure it is from an established publishing house
- Make sure that the journal has a specific submission process you have to follow and has a peer-review process
- Double check that the members of the editorial board on the journal are from reputable universities
- Make sure that the journal consistently generates articles in regular issues and volumes
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