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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 8:121-125 (2008)  -  DOI:

Journal visibility, self-citation, and reference limits: influences on Impact Factor and author performance review

Paul W. Sammarco*

Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), 8124 Hwy. 56, Chauvin, Louisiana 70344, USA

ABSTRACT: Bibliometrics, including the Journal Impact Factor (JIF), assist decision-making in publishing and academic reviews. Some ‘cutting edge’ papers are not published in ‘high ranking’ journals because they were either too controversial, ‘blocked’ during the review process, rejected due to the random factor introduced by numerous competing good submissions, or editor bias. Such papers, when published in other journals, may still become well known and accepted. Examples of this may be found within conference proceedings, journals with moderate JIF and Citations per Publication (CPP), and PhD dissertations. Journals such as Science and Nature may be overrated. A paper published there may or may not be better than one published in journals with a more restricted distribution and coverage. Excellent papers occur in both types of journals. Low acceptance rates (10%) introduce a random component into the review process along with potential editor bias during preliminary review. The overflow moves to more standard journals. CPP is often used to assess a researcher’s impact on his/her field and as an impact indicator for a specific article. The belief that bibliometrics are manipulated by an author to increase the CPP through self-citation is probably perceptual. Self-citation is necessary to inform the reader about the author’s prior work and provide background information. Low self-citation rates can lead a reviewer to believe the author’s background is inadequate, while high rates might indicate that he/she is ignoring the work of colleagues. A balance is recommended. Limits on references can act similarly, limiting background information for the reader and denying justifiable citations to other authors conducting important relevant research. Bibliometrics can serve certain purposes well, but are not perfect. Low bibliometric indicators do not necessarily reflect poorly on a researcher or the relevant journal.

KEY WORDS: Bibliometrics · Citations · CPP · Self-citation · Impact factor · Performance review · Super-journals · Visibility · Reference limits

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Cite this article as: Sammarco PW (2008) Journal visibility, self-citation, and reference limits: influences on Impact Factor and author performance review. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 8:121-125.

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