In recent months, a lot of new citation approaches have landed in my email box. Alternatives and tangents seem to have arisen amidst angst about the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) and their traditional impact factor. (Note to ironists: displeasure with algorithmic proxies for quality leads to more but different algorithmic proxies for quality.)

Some of the alternative citation and/or impact factor approaches include:

  1. Elsevier’s Scopus — a “hot papers” tracking service, quite comprehensive, with an “h-index” ranking authors
  2. Index Copernicus — an expert (aka, subjective) approach to impact factor
  3. The Eigenfactor — a “Google-like” approach that seeks to create a factor equivalent to the impact factor (but over 5 years and generated differently), and which aspires to generate a distinct measure of value
  4. Usage Factors — a tangential initiative from the folks who brought us COUNTER. Usage Factors are in a fledgling state, have a long way to go, have pitfalls if based solely on COUNTER sources, but are being thoughtfully handled.

The impact factor has a long history, and has been used, abused, or excused by many. It is a part of the scholarly culture, often tied to tenure or academic viability. And, like many parts of scholarly culture, technology and innovation are shaking it up. But is this excitement about new options? Or incitement to overthrow tradition?

Will one of these insurgents (or one I’ve failed to list) shake up the status quo? Or is there another answer to the fundamental issues?

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


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