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[ Publishing Workflows ] September 2, 2022

Impact Factor: Its effects, significance, and limitations for early-stage research

The use of Impact Factors to compare publications has been seen as an ineffective way of qualifying research. It evaluates only the end result of a multi-year research process and is vulnerable to manipulation. Can early-stage research provide actionable insights?

Effects of Impact Factor on science research

Impact Factors (IF) aim to show the relevance of research using the number of citations as criteria. This assessment system can wrongly question the value and impact of research and encourage the manipulation of publications and self-citation, resulting in poor research integrity.

The industry needs to re-examine the role of Impact Factor and its importance to prevent it from ruining the practical value of research. Evaluation metrics help guide peer review and provide a better understanding of research impact. However, it should not be used to judge the quality of work because:

- Some research publications evolve over time, so their impact may not be evident in the early stages of the life cycle.

- Inequalities like finance and location can cause researchers to publish quality work in obscure journals, resulting in a low Impact Factor due to poor reach.

- Citations counts can be inflated by non-citable items like news, letters, editorials, and reviews, which critically flaws the Impact Factor.

- Impact Factor has a short assessment timeframe which may leave out the findings published in the early stage of research.

With all these in mind, it becomes obvious that the misuse of the Impact Factor parameter can negatively affect early-stage research.


Does Impact Factor matter?

With good intention, this parameter was introduced to assist librarians in deciding on top-read publications to acquire but the wider industry has now abused this metric. Publishers now use it as criteria to accept or reject papers, and academic faculties use it to promote or hire scholars. This incentivizes researchers to publish in certain journals and damages the integrity of their research. And you can’t blame members for doing this since their career growth or performance ratings rely on the Impact Factor metrics. Therefore, the question is; should Impact Factor be given this much precedence in the field of science and publishing?


The way forward for evaluation metrics in early-stage research

While metrics can help us understand the activity of research work, they should not be the sole determinant of the quality of work. To free the science field of its over-dependence on Impact Factors, innovative peer review tools and alternative article-level metrics need to be introduced to curb its effects on early-stage research.


Implementing the needed change in evaluation metrics

Research integrity and transparency in peer review are crucial to the advancement of science. Publishers, academia and other relevant stakeholders are well positioned to effect the needed transformations for the future of science.

Early-stage research and conference proceedings future complicate journal-based evaluation measures. This work can shine a light on the evolution of research, strengthening transparency and the validity of the ideas, but it is often left out of the conversation entirely.

Our platform supports the evolution of science from the early stage to the full maturation of the research work without the pressure of publishing within the Impact Factor 2-year window. We leverage innovative approaches to evaluate how often early-stage research is cited in other published work so that researchers can benefit from their early work’s impact while ensuring integrity in their later outputs.



In the end, Impact Factor and other evaluation metrics are ubiquitous and can not be ignored. However, they should not be used to determine the quality and relevance of research.

The “Impact Factor Mania” that incentivizes citations as criteria for assessing research is detrimental to science. Therefore, more innovative approaches should be employed to prevent scientists and the general sector from associating the value of research with journals where they are published or the citations received.

Get in touch with us to learn more about our peer review process and our approach to research integrity.

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