Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

The Impact Factor Fetishism

  • Christian Fleck (a1)

Abstract

One of the most popular indicators is the Impact Factor. This paper examines the coming into being of this highly influential figure. It is the offspring of Eugene Garfield’s experimentation with the huge amounts of data available at his Institute for Scientific Information and the result of a number of attempts to find appropriate measurements for the success (“impact”) of articles and journals. The completely inductive procedure was initially adjusted by examining the data thoughtfully and by consulting with experts from different scientific disciplines. Later, its calculation modes were imposed on other disciplines without further consideration. The paper demonstrates in detail the inopportune consequences of this, in particular for sociology. Neither the definition of disciplines, nor the selection of journals for the Web of Science/Social Science Citation Index follows any comprehensible rationale. The procedures for calculating the impact factor are inappropriate. Despite its obvious unsuitability, the impact factor is used by editors of sociological journals for marketing and impression management purposes. Fetishism!

L’un des indicateurs bibliométriques les plus utilisés est le facteur d’impact. On retrace ici l’ascension de ce chiffre si influent. Il est le produit d’une expérimentation d’Eugène Garfield à partir de l’énorme masse de données de son « Institute for Scientific Information » après de nombreux essais pour trouver des mesures convenables de succès (impact) d’articles ou de revues. La démarche, totalement inductive a été d’abord affinée à la fois par l’examen attentif des données et l’appel à des experts scientifiques de quelques disciplines. Par la suite les modalités de calcul ont été étendues aux autres, sans plus de précaution. L’article expose dans le détail les conséquences catastrophiques en particulier pour la sociologie. Ni le contenu des intitulés disciplinaires, ni la sélection des revues dans le Web of Science/Social Science Citation Index ne répondent à des critères rationnels. Il en va de même de la procédure de calcul des facteurs d’impact, qui, en dépit de ces défauts évidents est utilisé par les éditeurs de revues à des fins de marketing et de pilotage. Fétichisme !

Der Beitrag untersucht Entstehung und Verwendung des "Impact Faktors". Er war ein Nebenprodukt von Eugene Garfields Experimentieren mit den riesigen Datenmengen, die seinem Institute for Scientific Information zur Verfügung standen, um den Erfolg („impact“) von Artikeln und Zeitschriften zu messen. Der Impact Faktor wurde völlig induktive anhand der Daten einiger weniger naturwissenschaftlicher Disziplinen und nach Konsultationen mit Experten aus diesem Bereich entwickelt und danach ohne weitere Prüfung auf andere Disziplinen übertragen. Weder die Definition der Disziplinen, noch die Auswahl der Zeitschriften, die in das Web of Science bzw. den Social Science Citation Index aufgenommen wurden, folgen einer nachvollziehbaren Begründung. Trotz offensichtlicher Ungeeignetheit für die Soziologie wird der Impact Faktor von Herausgebern und Verlagen für Werbe- und Marketingzwecke verwendet und beeinflusst das Leseverhalten und die Veröffentlichungspraktiken von Soziologen. Ihr Verhalten gleicht dem Fetischismus, der vor langem als Merkmal der kapitalistischer Produktionsweise identifiziert wurde.

Copyright

References

Hide All
Aaltojärvi, Inari, Arminen, Ilkka, Auranen, Otto and Pasanen, Hanna-Mari, 2008. “Scientific productivity, web visibility and citation patterns in sixteen nordic sociology departments”, Acta Sociologica, 51: 5-22.
Abbott, Andrew, 2011. “Library Research Infrastructure for Humanistic and Social Scientific Scholarship in America in the Twentieth Centuryin Camic, Charles, Lamont, Michèle and Gross, Neill, eds., Social knowledge in the making (Chicago, University of Chicago Press: 43-87).
Archambault, Éric and Larivière, Vincent, 2009. “History of the Journal Impact Factor: Contingencies and Consequences”, Scientometrics, 79: 635-649.
Archambault, Éric, Gingras, Yves and Larivière, Vincent, eds., 2012. Proceedings of 17th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (Montréal, Science-Metrix and ost).
Ashton, Susan V. O. C., 1978. “A Method of Predicting Nobel Prizewinners in Chemistry”, Social Studies of Science, 8: 341-348.
Baldi, Stéphane, 1998. “Normative versus Social Constructivist Processes in the Allocation of Citations: A Network-Analytic Model”, American Sociological Review, 63: 829-846.
Baum, Joel A. C., 2011. “Free-Riding on Power Laws: questioning the validity of the Impact Factor as a measure of research quality in organization studies”, Organization, 18: 449-466.
Becker, Joseph, 1968. “Information Storage and Retrieval” in Sills, David L., ed., International encyclopedia of the social sciences, vol. 7 (New York, Macmillan: 301-304).
Bensman, Stephen J., 2007. “Garfield and the Impact Factor”, Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 41: 93-155.
Bjarnason, Thoroddur and Sigfusdottir, Inga D., 2002. “Nordic impact: Article productivity and citation patterns in sixteen Nordic Sociology departments”, Acta Sociologica, 45: 253-267.
Bulmer, Martin and Solomos, John, 2010. “Introduction: developments and plans for the future of Ethnic and Racial Studies”, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33: 1689.
Chi, Pei-Shan, 2012. “Characteristics of Publications in Political Sciencein Archambault, Éric et al. ., eds., Proceedings of 17th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (Montréal, Science-Metrix and ost: 441-442).
Collini, Stefan, 2012. What are universities for? (London, Penguin).
Drori, Gili S., Meyer, John W., Ramirez, Francisco O. and Schofer, Evan, 2003. Science in the modern world polity. Institutionalization and globalization (Stanford, Stanford University Press).
Elkana, Yehuda, Lederberg, Joshua, Merton, Robert K., Thackray, Arnold and Zuckerman, Harriet, eds., 1978. Toward a Metric of Science: The Advent of Science Indicators (New York, Wiley).
Engels, Tim, Ossenblok, Truyken and Spruyt, Eric, 2012. “Changing Publication Patterns in the Social Sciences and Humanities, 2000–2009”, Scientometrics, 93: 373-390.
European Commission, 2011. The Ideas Work Programme. European Research Council Work Programme 2012 (Brussels, European Commission), (http://erc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/document/file/erc_2012_work%20programme.pdf).
The Europa world of learning 2012 (London, Routledge).
Fischer, Klaus, 2008. “Science and its malfunctions”, Human architecture: Journal of the sociology of self-knowledge, 6: 1-22.
Fleck, Christian, 2010. „Wie statistische und andere Zahlen unser Vertrauen gewinnen und enttäuschenin Aulenbacher, Brigitte and Ziegler, Meinrad, Hrsg., In Wahrheit … Herstellung, Nutzen und Gebrauch von „Wahrheit“ in Wissenschaft und Alltag (Innsbruck, Studienverlag: 131-146).
Fox, R. et al. ., 2009: “Journals under Threat: A Joint Response from History of Science, Technology and Medicine Editors”, Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 63: 1-3.
Fuyuno, Ichiko and Cyranoski, David, 2006. “Cash for Papers: Putting a Premium on Publication”, Nature, 441: 792.
Garfield, Eugene, 1963. “Citation Indexes in Sociological and Historical Research”, American Documentation, 14: 289-291.
Garfield, Eugene, 1972. “Citation Analysis as a Tool in Journal Evaluation”, Science Citation Index 1961, 178: 471-479.
Garfield, Eugene, 1973. “More on Forecasting Nobel Prizes and the Most Cited Scientists of 197”, Current Contents, 40: 5-7.
Garfield, Eugene, 1977a. “Citation Analysis as a Tool in Journal Evaluation” in Garfield Eugene, Essays of an Information Scientist: 1962-1973, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, ISI-Press: 527-544).
Garfield, Eugene, 1977b [1970]. “Citation Indexing, Historio-bibliography, and the Sociology of Sciencein Garfield, Eugene, Essays of an Information Scientist: 1962-1973, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, ISI-Press: 158-174).
Garfield, Eugene, 1977c. ““Citations-to” divided by “Items-published” gives Journal Impact Factor; ISI Lists the Top Fifty High-impact Journals of Sciencein Garfield, Eugene, Essays of an Information Scientist: 1962-1973, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, ISI-Press: 270-273).
Garfield, Eugene, 1988. “Derek Price and the Practical World of Scientometrics”, Science, Technology, & Human Values, 13: 349-350.
Garfield, Eugene, 1990. “How ISI Selects Journals for Coverage: Quantitative and Qualitative Considerations”, Current Contents, #22.
Garfield, Eugene, 2005. “The Agony and the Ecstacy – The History and Meaning of the Journal Impact Factor”, International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, Chicago (http://garfield.library.upenn.edu/papers/jifchicago2005.pdf.)
Garfield, Eugene and Sher, Irving H., 1963. “New Factors in the Evaluation of Scientific Literature Through Citation Indexing”, American Documentation, 14: 195-201.
Gingras, Yves and Mosbah-Natanson, Sébastien, 2010. “Where are Social Sciences Produced?in unesco and issc, eds., World Social Science Report 2010: Knowledge Divides (Paris, unesco Publishing: 149-153).
Glänzel, Wolfgang and Moed, Henk, 2002. “Journal impact measures in bibliometric research”, Scientometrics, 53: 171-193.
Glänzel, Wolfgang and Moed, Henk, 2012. “Thoughts and Facts on Bibliometric Indicatorsin Archambault, Éric et al. ., eds., Proceedings of 17th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (Montréal, Science-Metrix and ost: 305-318).
González-Pereira, Borja, Vicente Guerrero-Bote Felix and Moya-Anegón (o. J.): The SJR indicator: A new indicator of journals scientific prestige. Available online athttp://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0912/0912.4141.pdf.
Hargens, Lowell L, 2000. “Using the Literature: Reference Networks, Reference Contexts, and the Social Structure of Scholarship”, American Sociological Review, 65: 846-865.
Holmwood, John, 2010. “Sociology’s Misfortune: Disciplines, Interdisciplinarity and the Impact of Audit Culture”, British Journal of Sociology, 61: 639-658.
Ingwersen, Peter, 2012. “The pragmatics of a diachronic journal impact factor”, Scientometrics, 92: 319-324.
Kaplan, Norman and Storer, Norman W., 1968. “Scientific Communicationin Sills, David L., ed., International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 14 (New York, Macmillan: 112-117).
Kieser, Alfred, 2010. “Unternehmen Wissenschaft?Leviathan. Berliner Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft, 38: 347-367.
Kieser, Alfred, 2012. „jourqual. Der Gebrauch, nicht der Missbrauch, ist das Problem. Oder: warum Wirtschaftsinformatik die beste deutschsprachige betriebswirtschaftliche Zeitschrift ist“, Die Betriebswirtschaft, 72: 93-110.
Kirchner, Frank, ed., 2004. World Guide to Scientific Associations and Learned Societies (Munich, Saur).
Lederberg, Joshua, 2000. “How the Science Citation Index Got Startedin Cronin, Blaise and Atkins, Helen B., eds., The Web of Knowledge: A Festschrift in Honor of Eugene Garfield (Mulford, Information Today, Inc.: 25-64).
Macdonald, Stuart and Kam, Jacqueline, 2007. “Ring a Ring o’ Roses: Quality Journals and Gamesmanship in Management Studies”, Journal of Management Studies, 44: 640-655.
Macdonald, Stuart and Kam, Jacqueline, 2011. “The Skewed Few: People and Papers of Quality in Management Studies”, Organization, 18: 467-475.
Martins, Herminio, 1974. “Time and Theory in Sociologyin Rex, John, ed., Approaches to Sociology: An Introduction to Major Trends in British Sociology (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul: 246-294).
Martyn, John and Gilchrist, Alan, 1968. “An Evaluation of British Scientific Journals”, ASLIB Occasional Publication, #1.
Marx, Karl, 1906 [1867]. Capital. A Critique of Political Economy (New York, Modern Library).
Merton, Robert K., 1979. “Forewordin Garfield, Eugene, Citation Indexing: Its Theory and Application in Science, Technology and Humanities (New York, John Wiley & Sons: v-ix).
Merton, Robert K., 2000. “On the Garfield Input to the Sociology of Science: A Retrospective Collagein Cronin, Blaise and Atkins, Helen B., eds., The Web of Knowledge: A Festschrift in Honor of Eugene Garfield (Mulford, Information Today, Inc: 435-448).
Merton, Robert K. and Garfield, Eugene, 1986. “Forewordin Price, Derek J. de Solla, Little Science, Big Science… And Beyond (New York, Columbia University Press: vii-xii).
Meyer, John W. and Rowan, Brian, 1977. “Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and CeremonyAmerican Journal of Sociology, 83: 340-363.
Mirowski, Philip, 2011. Science-Mart. Privatizing American Science (Cambridge, Harvard University Press).
Moed, Henk, Colledge, Lisa, Reedijk, Jan, Moya-Anegon, Felix, Guerrero-Bote, Vicente, Plume, Andrew and Amin, Mayur, 2012. “Citation-based Metrics are Appropriate Tools in Journal Assessment Provided that they are Accurate and Used in an Informed Way”, Scientometrics, 92: 367-376.
Münch, Richard, 2007. Die akademische Elite. Zur sozialen Konstruktion wissenschaftlicher Exzellenz (Frankfurt a.M, Suhrkamp).
Pendlebury, David A., 2009. “The Use and Misuse of Journal Metrics and Other Citation Indicators”, Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis, 57: 1-11.
Persson, Olle, 1985. “Scandinavian social science in international journals”, Social Science Information Studies, 5: 185-190.
Power, Michael, 1997. The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification (New York, Oxford University Press).
Price, Derek S. de, 1978. “Editorial statements”, Scientometrics, 1: 7.
Pudovkin, A. I. and Garfield, Eugene, 2012. “Rank Normalization of Impact Factors Will Resolve Vanclay’s Dilemma with trif. Comments on the paper by Jerome Vanclay”, Scientometrics, 92: 409-412.
Schofer, Evan, 2004. “Cross-national Differences in the Expansion of Science, 1970-1990Social Forces, 83: 215-248.
Sica, Alan, 2012. “Editor’s RemarksContemporary Sociology, 41: 137-138.
Smith, Anthony D., 1983. “Nationalism and Classical Social Theory”, British Journal of Sociology, 34: 19-38.
Smith, Derek R., 2012. “Impact Factors, Scientometrics and the History of Citation-based Research”, Scientometrics, 92: 419-427.
Strathern, Marilyn, ed., 2000. Audit Cultures: Anthropological Studies in Accountability, Ethics, and the Academy (London, Routledge).
Streeck, Wolfgang and Feick, Jürgen, 2012. “Impact Factor and sase’s annual prize”, Socio-Economic Review, 10: 625.
Testa, Jim, 2012. The Thomson Reuters Journal Selection Process (http://thomsonreuters.com/products_services/science/free/essays/journal_selection_process/).
Ulrich’s Periodical Directory, 2011 (http://ulrichsweb.serialssolutions.com/).
unesco and issc, eds., 2010. World Social Science Report 2010: Knowledge Divides (Paris, unesco Publishing).
Vanclay, Jerome, 2011. “Impact Factor: Outdated Artefact or Stepping-stone to Journal Certification?”, Scientometrics, 92: 211-228.
Ward, Kevin, 2010. “Research Monographs: An Overviewin unesco and issc, eds., World Social Science Report 2010: Knowledge Divides (Paris, unesco Publishing: 300-302).
Wilhite, Allen W. and Fong, Eric A., 2012. “Coercive Citation in Academic Publishing”, Science, 335: 542-543.
Willmott, Hugh, 2011. “Journal List Fetishism and the Perversion of Scholarship: Reactivity and the ABS List”, Organization, 18: 429-442.
Wimmer, Andreas and Schiller, Nina Glick, 2003. “Methodological Nationalism, the Social Sciences and the Study of Migration: An Essay in Historical Epistemology”, International Migration Review, 37: 576-610.
Wouters, Paul and Leydesdorff, Loet, 1994. “Has Price’s Dream Come True: Is Scientometrics a Hard Science?”, Scientometrics, 31: 193-222.
Zitt, Michel, 2012. “The Journal Impact Factor: Angel, Devil, or Scapegoat? A Comment on J.K. Vanclay’s Article 2011”, Scientometrics, 92: 485-503.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie
  • ISSN: 0003-9756
  • EISSN: 1474-0583
  • URL: /core/journals/european-journal-of-sociology-archives-europeennes-de-sociologie
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary materials

Fleck supplementary tables
Fleck supplementary tables

 PDF (231 KB)
231 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed