The impact factor is not be everyone’s favourite metric in medical journal publishing. It is slow, counting citations made more than a year ago, it favours reviews over original articles, and the final assessment may be dominated by just a few highly cited papers. Moreover, ‘impact’ is measured only by the number of citations in a limited period; what about impact on everyday treatment or on clinical research?
Nevertheless, the impact factor remains the most accessible measure of journal quality and journal success, and it is a tribute to the ESC journals that four of the top 15 journals in this year’s Journal Citation Reports for cardiology were titles from the ESC’s stable of journals. Moreover, five of the nine ESC titles set new impact factor records and the flagship, the European Heart Journal, increased its score from 14.723 to 15.203, another all-time high.
‘We’re still surprised at how successful we’ve been’ says Editor-in-Chief, Thomas F. Lüscher. Having broken through into the exalted realm of double-digit impact factors in 2011, this latest score represents a move of almost five points in just four years and takes the EHJ ahead of Circulation and only behind JACC (with a new impact factor of 16.503) in the cardiology listing.
Lüscher attributes such a huge step forward for the EHJ to a greater global - and not just European - appeal. ‘More and more of our manuscripts are coming from US institutions,’ he says, ‘and we are very happy to attract the top US researchers. We are also increasing our appeal in Asia and Australia, and have strong relationships in Japan.’ He adds that innovations like CardioPulse, which provide a forum for international news and comment, and editorials commissioned from international experts have also broadened the EHJ’s appeal.
There were several other striking impact factor moves for ESC journals - The European Journal of Heart Failure rose to 6.526, the European Heart Journal Cardiovascular Imaging from 3.669 to 4.105, and Cardiovascular Research, a journal strongly associated with the aims of this congress, from 5.808 to 5.940.
With around 3500 original manuscripts submitted each year and a rejection rate of around 90%, Lüscher is confident that the EHJ’s editorial policy of transferring well regarded papers to these more specialist sister journals is helping raise their quality and profile - and protecting the ESC family of journals from other titles. ‘But I always feel bad about rejecting good papers,’ he says, which is why one session at this congress aims to help investigators better prepare their manuscripts for journal submission. A Special Session this morning will set out ‘the editor’s criteria for good scientific papers’, whose ingredients, says Lüscher, must include clarity, novelty and honesty. ‘The statistical analysis is also very important,’ he adds, ‘and any paper now considered for publication is sent out for statistical review.’
With weekly publication introduced at the start of 2013, the EHJ has now joined a select list of high-ranking journals, which includes JACC and Circulation, but this, admits Lüscher, has surprisingly had no detrimental effect on impact factor. The increased frequency prompted a slight reduction in the size of each issue, which has now settled into a weekly rhythm of four original papers per issue and an additional wealth of news, opinion, invited review, guidelines and correspondence. The journal has also just introduced a novel feature of brief communications (of around 1500 words and one figure) on preliminary but stimulating work. There will also be more papers collected by topic in a single issue.
But perhaps the biggest sign of things to come is the huge role which the digital revolution is having on the EHJ. Podcasts of summaries and commentaries of key EHJ articles are now available as an ‘issue @ a Glance’ feature, with associated articles free to access. Downloads are running at about 10,000 per article featured, suggesting that the everyday influence of the EHJ may be even greater than its citation impact. ‘It’s very interesting,’ says Lüscher, ‘because the downloads are what physicians are reading - and the number of downloads is going up dramatically. I think this is influence . . . mentions on Twitter, blogs and other social networks. The impact factor is science, but it doesn’t represent use in everyday practice.’ But for the time being at least, it’s the metric which matters, and right now a source of pride and satisfaction for the EHJ’s editorial team.
What are the editor’s criteria for good scientific papers? Meet the editors of the European Heart Journal, 1 Sep, 10:10-10:50 St James Park - The Hub
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