The Cutting – Throat Competition of Journal Indexes

Indexation of a journal is a reflection of its quality. Indexed journals are measured higher in quality as compared to non-indexed journals, thus forming the basis of competition in journal indexing. And it is not spared from the debate.

Many popular indexation services have developed over the years. But credibility and ranking of each is a topic of discussion amongst the author community.

It has become a matter of concern as to how to decide which indexation service is most acceptable and valid globally. Also, what are the parameters for comparing the quality of papers/research published in a journal indexed by different indexation services.

The reason indexing has become an important parameter and thus a matter of contest is because academic institutions are emphasizing a lot on the importance of indexed publication, thus raising a contest among authors also for selecting the right kind of indexed journal for publishing their research.

Publishers and journals are found bragging about the number of indexing services that cover their journals. And this contention is because publishers want to attract more author fees by pretending to be the most sought after publication by way of number of indexing services that cover them.

This has lead to a lot of confusion amongst the author community as selection of a high quality journal has become a difficult decision. Absence of correct guidelines on this topic is another reason for this confusion. As a result, many publications are claiming that their journals are indexed in “X” number of indexing services, which in fact are not indexing services. Either projecting a false claim or they are ignorant about journal indexing.

Moreover, with so many indexation services in the market, there are questions and doubts which warrant a discussion. There are questions which need to be answered, like which indexation service is most relevant and universally acceptable. Associations of editors and other organization from the same fraternity can play a pivotal role in clearing these doubts.

Is Impact Factor the Only Possible Assessment Mode for a Journal?

The assessment of research publications is an important part of the research process. There are plenty of methodologies in practice, but three most common methods of assessing the merit of a research paper are subjective post-publication peer review, citations gathered by a research paper, and the impact factor (IF) of the journal in which the research was published.

The impact factor relates to a specific time period; though it is possible to calculate it for any desired time period. The impact factor is used to compare different journals within a same field. It is possible to examine the impact factor of the journals in which a particular person has published articles.

The use of impact factor is widespread, but debated because of its irrelevant use in evaluating individuals because there is a wide variation from article to article in a single journal. Still Impact factors have a great, but controversial, influence on the way published scientific research is perceived and evaluated.

Another reason it is debatable because some companies are producing false impact factors and the effect of policies that editors may use to improve their impact factor which is detrimental to readers and writers. Another factor to be considered is impact factor might not be consistently reproduced in an independent audit.

Another criticism focuses on the effect of the impact factor on response of scholars, editors and other stakeholders.

Many research foundations have published and suggested new guidelines to evaluate journals like the International Council for Science Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the Conduct of Science has issued a statement on publication practices and indices and the role of peer review in research assessment, advising many possible solutions to this issue—like considering a limited number of publications in a year to be taken into consideration for each researcher, or even penalizing researcher for a excessively large number of publications per year.

Emphasis has been raised on increasing importance of numerical indicators such as the h-index. Other to name are immediacy index, cited half-life, aggregate impact factor, source normalized impact per paper, page rank algorithm etc.

The methods shared above apply only to journals, not individual articles or scientists.

Article-level metrics such as H-index measure impact at an article level instead of journal level. Other more general alternative metrics include article views, downloads, or mentions in social media and tweet, thus introducing a “Twimpact factor” and Twindex. Public Library of Science introduced another method called article-level metrics.

Open Access Movement: How Far Has It Gone?

Success of Open Access is clearly visible from the outlook of the research community towards non acceptance of the results of their funding to end up in the trap of pay walls of the publishing community.

Another testimony to its success is a mandatory public access policy in force for most of the major fund raisers in many countries.

It is not enough to just change the way research results are published, it is also required to look upstream at how research experiments are carried out, and how the results are analyzed and prepared for publication.

The maximum benefit from the Open Access model can be achieved once we see a mechanism of tools, standards and policies in place which will ensure a seamless flow of data and descriptive metadata, starting from experimental design to data capture, analysis, and publication, retaining much of the required information at every stage.

Benefit so far from success of this model is not limited to what it has achieved so far but we cannot ignore the fact that it has laid a strong foundation for the further benefit of the research community.

Building blocks seem to fall in place, but there is a long way to go. The protagonists are putting their best forward to find out techniques so that data can flow in a meaningful way through the entire process till publication and also making results more reliable and reproducible.

The purpose of the open access model is not just limited to fixing library budgets or to put a dent in the businesses of existing publishers, it is aimed at introducing a new form of publishing that would ultimately provide research fraternity a method to more effectively share their research results and at the same time also challenging the age old notion that published content belongs to the publisher and benefiting the society at large.