DORA Takes Aim at the Journal Impact Factor

As of March 2018, 472 organizations had signed the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), a set of recommendations for improving the ways in which scholarly research is evaluated. One of the most recent signers is the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

Developed in 2012 during the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco, DORA is a worldwide initiative that takes specific aim at the overemphasis on a journal’s impact factor as a measure of quality:

The Journal Impact Factor is frequently used as the primary parameter with which to compare the scientific output of individuals and institutions. The Journal Impact Factor, as calculated by Thomson Reuters [now published by Clarivate Analytics], was originally created as a tool to help librarians identify journals to purchase, not as a measure of the scientific quality of research in an article. With that in mind, it is critical to understand that the Journal Impact Factor has a number of well-documented deficiencies as a tool for research assessment. These limitations include A) citation distributions within journals are highly skewed [1–3]; B) the properties of the Journal Impact Factor are field-specific: it is a composite of multiple, highly diverse article types, including primary research papers and reviews [1, 4]; C) Journal Impact Factors can be manipulated (or “gamed”) by editorial policy [5]; and D) data used to calculate the Journal Impact Factors are neither transparent nor openly available to the public [4, 6, 7].

Bravo! Misconceptions about the impact factor are rife. Many times, discussion of a journal or an article focuses exclusively on impact factor. The value of the article and the quality of the journal are assumed—based on one faulty and proprietary metric, or the lack of it.

Ochsner Journal is already in compliance with most of the DORA recommendations for publishers, but we will take additional steps in 2018 to implement other guidelines, such as requiring each author to identify his/her specific contributions to every paper and removing all limits on reuse from article reference lists.

Note: Click to the Declaration on Research Assessment to access the references (1-7) called out in the excerpt above.