Impact factors and half-lives

It’s that time of year when academic journal editors nervously look at the Web of Science data to see how they’ve done compared with their competitors, as assessed by the magic bibliometrics that are now the basis of any assessment of how ‘good’ a journal is. In my case, of course, I was looking to see how Journal of Documentation had done.

The most obvious thing that strikes on on looking at the ‘top twenty’ library / information journals in the WoS ranking is that most of them aren’t library / information in any sense that we know it. I would only recognise six of them as LIS journals; the rest are mainly management information systems and health informatics, presumably without any other home to go to.

Of the ‘real’ LIS contingent, and assessed by the ‘impact factor’ which tends to be the most quoted quality measure, Annual Reviews of Information Science and Technology is not surprisingly at the top, as befits the only review journal in the field. Of ‘normal’ journals, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology leads, followed by Information Processing and Management, and then Journal of Documentation, ahead of Journal of Information Science and Journal of the Medical Library Association. Pretty much the same as last year.

Of course, any journal editor should be able to find a measure that shows their baby is the prettiest in the show, and for us that is the ‘half life’ measure, an indication of the length of time that the journal’s material retains its value. JDoc not only has the highest half-life of any of the five LIS journals quoted, but is also ahead of ARIST; notably so, in that review articles generally have the longest periods of value. A nice confirmation for me and the editorial board that we are succeeding in avoiding ephemera, and publishing material that stays relevant for a long time.

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