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Impact Factor
The next major item on the list is quantitative quality met- rics, with IF being the most widely known, used and (in some cases) abused (Nature Editorial, 2016). Other impor- tant metrics include eigenfactor score, cited half-life, imme- diacy index, usage, and acceptance rate. Depending on what the user/evaluator of the journal wants, any one of these, or a weighted average of them, might be the best descriptor of the journal. But IF is by far the dominant player in this group, at least in the academic world. Without getting unduly techni- cal, IF is a “measure of the frequency with which the ‘aver- age article’ in a journal has been cited in a particular year or period” (see Citations are considered a prime measure of an article’s academic impor- tance, and so IF gets top billing. It is typically a two-year IF, but the longer five-year IF is also often seen.
The two-year IF for JASA over the past few years has hov- ered in the 1.5-1.6 range. This is below the 2.0 and above that is often quoted for “high-tier” journals. The five-year IF for 2016 was 1.850. This higher value is because JASA has a very long cited half-life (as will be discussed below). Improving the two-year IF is a serious consideration for JASA and JA- SA-EL, not because we consider the IF to be the ultimate, defining metric of a journal’s worth (we don’t) but because it is taken seriously as such by many authors, administrators, and potential employers when deciding where to publish or who to hire or promote. Given its extensive usage in the aca- demic world, we need to do something about improving the IF. And indeed, we have a strategy for this.
The first part of our strategy has already been discussed, speeding up the publication process so that slow turnaround will not be a consideration discouraging good authors when they consider the journal in which they want to publish. The next part of our strategy, already being implemented, is to fig- ure out what our IF is on a technical committee (TC) by TC basis (i.e., area by area), including Education and JASA-EL, rather than just looking at the integrated IF for JASA. The TCs represent very diverse areas of study, and the IF is often de- pendent on the specific area and its level of funding and activ- ity (e.g., van Nierop, 2009). So it makes sense to look at this level of “granularity,” to use the current business term.
Our publisher, AIPP, provided us with the 2015 and 2016 IFs on this TC by TC basis, which we then averaged for each TC. We then asked each of the TCs to provide a list of 5 to 10 “competitor” journals to JASA in which their members also publish. We obtained the IFs for these journals, aver- aged them, and then compared the IFs with the individual
TCs. The results of this initial TC by TC study are still being digested and, until they are fully understood, will be internal to ASA publications. But they are very interesting, and we will continue to update and analyze such statistics over time. One result of the study that was immediately unambiguous was that the individual IF for JASA-EL (which was estimated by AIPP) was lower than expected. This was surprising, giv- en that the popularity of JASA-EL with authors has increased recently, based on the numbers of submissions, downloads, and other factors. This finding has led us to making a study of the processes, publication model, and mission for JASA- EL a high priority.
Turning back to our IF campaign, we have a number of other strategies that we are also pursuing in addition to the two (increasing speed and in-depth analysis) discussed above. Citation counts are heavily affected by the most highly cited (high-impact) papers. So pursuing such papers and their highly respected authors is a good strategy for improving the IF. We have begun to solicit, with AIPP supporting these efforts, much more “special content” material (e.g., Special Issues, Reviews, Tutorials, Invited Articles, Forum Articles) than we have in the past. This will be a benefit for authors and readers in that these articles are free access (no pay wall), will (soon) reside on a special “landing page” on the JASA website and be highly promoted. From our viewpoint, soliciting content is a positive move because our readers value such material; it can bring in articles for hot or under- represented topics and will help the journal’s IF.
However, we are presently very reluctant to pursue the op- posite strategy to this and penalize low-impact areas (ones with many “zero cites”) because zero cites could come from a variety of factors (including underexposure) and doesn’t necessarily mean that an article is of low quality. Also, most importantly, the different disciplines that comprise the ASA and JASA have different IF expectations (van Nierop, 2009), and the historical mission of JASA is to serve all the techni- cal areas that comprise the ASA. There is also the point to consider that the ASA and JASA welcome both academics and practitioners, and although one community may favor citations and peer-reviewed papers, the other may prefer downloads and conference papers as their modus operandi.
Another aspect we will do to improve the IF is to work on tightening journal standards, which includes decreasing our acceptance rate somewhat, to 50% or below, for both JASA and JASA-EL. This really is not a negative because prevent- ing an author from presenting lower quality material is in both his/her interest and the journal’s.
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