The Editorial Board of the Journal of Neuroendocrinology certainly does, the publisher Wiley-Blackwell does, and so should you. Love or hate it, impact factors remain the key measure of a journal’s prestige and, by inference, your own. Although it can be easily argued that your personal citation metrics are the most important index of your success or otherwise, the impact factors of the journals you publish in are no less important. For one, they usually reflect the understood pecking order of journals within a discipline. Second, and perhaps more importantly, they give a numeric value to a publication for ‘outsiders’. Those ‘outsiders’ can be the ‘out-of-the-field academics’ evaluating your career progression within an institution, ‘accountants’ assessing your institution at a national level, or even, in some cases, ‘respected’ members of your grant-assessing panel. Third, as a neuroendocrinologist, have you ever felt like Cinderella at the ‘Neuroscience Ball’? By and large, investigations into the ‘soup of cells’ in the hypothalamus have not been regarded highly in the world of neuroscience and I suspect many of us have expressed the sentiment ‘if only I was working in the hippocampus’ at least once! This unwarranted, but nevertheless prevalent, view of neuroendocrinology has not been helped by our specialist neuroendocrine journals languishing in the 2.5–3.0 impact factor bracket for many years. Hence, for all of these reasons, the editorial team are really excited about having a specialist neuroendocrinology journal with an impact factor of 4.65; it can only be good for your career and our field.
So where has the increase in Journal of Neuroendocrinology impact factor come from? The impact factor of a journal is difficult to move substantially and very dependent on its past. To this end, the previous editorial caretakers of the journal must be recognised for having provided the solid foundations for its recent rise. In particular, the 20th Anniversary ‘Reviews’ issue, published in 2008, has been one of the strong drivers for our present position. When the new senior editorial team of Dave Grattan, Colin Brown and myself took over responsibility for the journal at the start of 2009, we looked hard at its citation history. Unexpectedly, commissioned stand-alone reviews had not, on average, received large numbers of citations, whereas the ‘Young Investigators Perspectives’ were doing at least as well. Perhaps the biggest shock to the new editorial team was that up to 40% of papers were never cited in the 2 years after their year of publication. As a result, we decided to maintain and encourage the ‘Young Investigators Perspectives’, as we considered them to be extremely useful for our up-and-coming neuroendocrinologists, as well as our readership. We have also put more emphasis on priority scoring for original papers, resulting in a higher numbers of rejected papers but also a ‘no-citation rate’ of < 5%. We also decided to obtain ‘clustered’ reviews where one subject was addressed by multiple senior authors in a single review. To assist with this latter effort, one of our primary marketing strategies has been to provide financial support for a range of neuroendocrine meetings and, where appropriate, to solicit reviews based on symposia held at those meetings. Each of these efforts has played its role in the recent incline in impact factor of the journal (Fig. 1), and will hopefully continue to maintain this level of impact in years to come.
How far can the neuroendocrinology field expect to go in terms of an impact factor for a specialist journal? There is a big drop from the Journal of Neuroscience, maintaining an impact factor of around 7.3, to the 5.0 for Endocrinology, and now 4.7 for the Journal of Neuroendocrinology. Other neuroscience sub-disciplines have spawned specialist journals such as Cortex (impact factor of 7.3), Glia (impact factor of 5.2) and Hippocampus (impact factor of 4.6) and, although their success can relate simply to the size of the field, we need to keep in mind that the sub-speciality journal in our field, Psychoneuroendocrinology, now has an impact factor of 5.2. Outside of the very top-flight journals and Journal of Neuroscience, there is probably general agreement that Endocrinology attracts the next best neuroendocrinology papers. In an attempt to estimate how high an impact factor we might expect a specialist neuroendocrinology journal to achieve, we calculated the impact factor of primary research papers published under the ‘Neuroendocrinology’ sub-section of Endocrinology. This was determined to be 5.3 for 2010. Considering that this value does not include reviews, we consider that there is every possibility that a specialist neuroendocrinology journal could maintain an impact factor well above 5.0. Although the distance has recently separated between the now more clinically-orientated Neuroendocrinology and Journal of Neuroendocrinology, it is certainly very good news for the discipline that the impact factor of Neuroendocrinology is also showing a sustained upward trend (Fig. 1). The senior editorial board is keenly aware that we need to provide a journal that best suits the wide needs of our field and we will, in addition, continue to strive to improve the impact factor of the Journal of Neuroendocrinology. We can only hope that it will not be long before it is a close decision as to whether you submit your very best work to the Journal of Neuroscience or the Journal of Neuroendocrinology!