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Thoughts on the impact factors and other metrics: Royal Meteorological Society journals

March 31, 2014 Filed under Blog, Featured, Publishing 

Recently, I’ve been having some discussions with people about the impact factors for the Royal Meteorological Society journals (Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Weather, Meteorological Applications, Atmospheric Science Letters, and International Journal of Climatology). The issues of how to raise impact factors for journals are not simple. The impact factors of nearly all journals published by the Society are going up, consistent with the majority of other scientific journals, likely due to the increase in the literature being cited. See this table I constructed for the to-be-released 2013 Annual Report.

From the forthcoming 2013 Royal Meteorological Society Annual Report.

From the forthcoming 2013 Royal Meteorological Society Annual Report.

Met Apps is low because the impact factor for operational forecasting journals are low (Weather and Forecasting is also comparably low). Forecasters and application developers tend not to publish and if they are not publishing then they are not citing, hence small impact factors. Frankly, it will be difficult to raise the low impact factor of Met Apps. Now, if that is the right audience for your paper, then you authors shouldn’t worry.

I don’t put much importance on impact factors because it says nothing about how YOUR paper will be cited in the future. If you published in a high-impact journal, but no one cited your paper because your discipline doesn’t read that journal, is that a success story? What if you published the same paper in QJRMS, then had 30 citations after 6 years? That’s not bad.

My favorite metric that no one uses is half-life. This metric ranks all the journal’s citations by the year they occurred, then determines when the 50th percentile occurred. QJRMS is a journal (Monthly Weather Review and Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences are two others) that have both high impact factors and half-lives so large that the numbers aren’t calculated anymore (>10 years). That indicates archival-quality research. Your work lasts a long time and continues to be cited many many years after being published. That is the kind of work that we ought to aspire to. Again, publishing in these journals doesn’t mean that your article will have a long half-life, but it represents the types of papers that the journals publish.

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