2003 impact factor =
(note that the 2003 impact factor was actually published in 2004, because it could not becalculated until all of the 2003 publications had been received.)A convenient way of thinking about it is that a journal that is cited once, on average, for eacharticle published has an IF of 1 in the expression above.There are some nuances to this: ISI excludes certain article types (such as news items,correspondence, and errata) from the denominator. New journals, that are indexed from their first published issue, will receive an Impact Factor after the completion of two years' indexing; in thiscase, the citations to the year prior to Volume 1, and the number of articles published in the year prior to Volume 1 are known zero values. Journals that are indexed starting with a volume other than the first volume will not have an Impact Factor published until three complete data-yearsare known; annuals and other irregular publications, will sometimes publish no items in a particular year, affecting the count. The impact factor is for a specific time period; it is possibleto calculate the impact factor for any desired period, for which the web site gives instructions.
Journal Citation Reports
includes a table of the relative rank of journals by Impact factor, ineach specific science discipline, such asorganic chemistry or psychiatry.
DebateIt is sometimes useful to be able to compare different journals and research groups. For example,a sponsor of scientific research might wish to compare the results to assess the productivity of its projects. An objective measure of the importance of different publications is then required andthe impact factor (or number of publications) are the only ones publicly available. However, it isimportant to remember that different scholarly disciplines can have very different publicationand citation practices, which affect not only the number of citations, but how quickly, after publication, most articles in the subject reach their highest level of citation. In all cases, it is onlyrelevant to consider the rank of the journal in a category of its peers, rather than the raw ImpactFactor value.Impact factors are not infallible measures of journal quality.For example, it is unclear
whether the number of citations a paper garners measures its actual quality or simply reflects thesheer number of publications in that particular area of research and whether there is a difference between them. Furthermore, in a journal which has long lag time between submission and publication, it might be impossible to cite articles within the three-year window. Indeed, for some journals, the time between submission and publication can be over two years, which leavesless than a year for citation. On the other hand, a longer temporal window would be slow toadjust to changes in journal impact factors. Thus, although the impact factor is appropriate for some fields of science such as molecular biology, it is not appropriate for subjects with a slower publication pattern, such as ecology. (It is possible to calculate the impact factor for any desired period, and the web site gives instructions.)