Impact Factors and Their Relevance to Journal Quality


I am excited to announce that our publishers at Wiley Blackwell have notified us that the International Journal of Nursing Knowledge (IJNK) is now indexed by Thomson Reuters in its Science Citation Index Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index. The Journal's first impact factor (IF) is .361 (listed under its previous title of International Journal of Nursing Terminologies and Classifications [IJNTC]). The IF captures the 5 previous years of the journal, which is why it is listed as IJNTC. The IF provides us with a ranking of 92/103 in nursing science and 89/101 in nursing/social science. This is great news for the journal, but it is also important to put the IF into perspective.

It is prestigious to be ranked. Of the more than 800 nursing journals in existence, only a small percentage (around 8%) are ranked for IFs (Oermann & Shaw-Kokot, 2013). More and more, authors are being directed toward journals that have IFs and are ranked. But unlike peer review, which suggests that the manuscript is read by several peers and deemed worthy of publication, the IF may or may not be a fair indicator of excellence.

The IF is a ratio that shows the number of times a journal's manuscripts are cited in other articles in either that same or other journals. This means that the IF could be manipulated. For example, authors could be forced to cite articles from the journal they are writing for even if the material has little relevance to their work. Review articles with their large number of citations could also inflate the IF of a journal. A focus on singularly publishing randomized clinical trials (RCTs) will also bump the ranking because those articles will be cited whether or not the science is necessarily sound or contributing to the advancement of knowledge.

An IF may indicate that the journal has noteworthy articles warranting reference; however, only a small percentage of the articles in any one journal may be of this stature. A journal with a high IF does not mean that everything published in that particular journal is reference/citation worthy. Some have suggested that only a small percentage of articles in any one journal influence the IF (Oermann & Shaw-Kokot, 2013; Polit & Notham, 2011). While one article in a journal may be widely referenced, others may not be, but the IF remains high because of the highly cited article.

The IF is not and should not be a determining factor when considering publication. It is more important that an article reach the intended audience. An article should be helpful to the readership. For example, our case study series frequently has few, if any, references, but the case studies help our readers understand how to think critically about accurately using nursing diagnosis in practice. Articles about the electronic health record and the use of and link to standardized nursing languages often are limited in the number of references to articles in our journal because it is an emerging topic. In no way are these unimportant articles to our journal and/or readership.

As for the value of an IF ranking, it eases the way for readers to find IJNK articles. It has been suggested that being ranked encourages scholarly publications (Polit & Notham, 2011). So it is important to be ranked if the result is an influx of more scholarly and high-quality publications. In some cases, however, the term scholarly is viewed solely as reports of RCTs, but that is not the only indicator for a scholarly publication. An RCT may not even be of much quality or value in terms of advancing nursing knowledge. A theoretical/philosophical article or a research report using a nonexperimental design may be more thought provoking, stir debate, be worthy of being cited, and do much more to advance the discipline than findings from an RCT.

Other factors authors should consider are timeliness in submission turnaround for first decision, which for the IJNK is 33 days. Peer review is also an important consideration for many, if not most articles. All articles in IJNK are subject to at least two peer reviews. It is important to disseminate new knowledge, but a sound critique is essential. Rejection rate is also something to be aware of as it speaks to selectivity. Our acceptance rate is 47%, but it is important to keep in mind that selectivity is important as long as it is done in the spirit of fair and helpful critique. Despite rejection by one journal, authors are encouraged to rewrite based on the peer review suggestions and resubmit to another journal. Hence, many factors influence what it means to be a quality journal.

Several years ago, our journal made having an IF a goal. So this is yet another exciting chapter for the journal with many more to come. We have worked hard to get to this point, and having an IF should be celebrated. But I also want readers of this journal to understand what it means to have an IF and to be able to place its meaning in perspective. Please see the references for further reading on this topic, and as always, feel free to email me if you have questions.