Newsletter July 2023: European Journal of Anaesthesiology (EJA) and the Impact Factor (IF)

This article was written by the Board of Editors of EJA 

For years the editorial strategy of the EJA has been linked to the improvement of the Impact Factor (IF). Many editorial decisions, including the number of articles published by issue, preferred topics, the priority for guidelines and reviews, and responses to the letters, were driven by this famous metric.

However, the IF has never been designed to assess the quality of research but to help the professionals working in libraries to assess how often publications are referred to. Progressively, it has been used to compare some journals and, at the end of the day, the IF has become the Holy Grail for all Editors-in-Chief with only one goal: a steady increase every year. Many tricks have been popularized among editors to artificially increase the IF: decreasing the number of articles published every year, auto-citations, reviews with recommended suggestions of the journals, etc.

As a result, journals with low or intermediate IF received more and more submissions rejected from high IF journals and the IF-gap between journals has increased. Many financial incentives have been built on the use of the IF, combining the rank of the authors and the journals IF.

The COVID crisis has helped to understand the major drawbacks of the IF. Very low-quality papers highly cited in 2020 have generated substantial increases in the IF of many journals. As a result of the inappropriate citations from COVID papers, the 2021 IF increased for many journals in the fields of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care. This has not been the case for the EJA as Martin Tramèr (past EIC) wisely rejected all COVID related submissions in 2020 when they did not meet basic quality requirements. So, the EJA IF remains largely unchanged compared with other journals and it does not reflect the quality of journals which are still comparable.

In 2012, for the first time, a group of researchers and scientists published the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which pledged for a better-quality assessment of research and to abandon the IF as a metric. Nothing happened until 2022 with the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (COARA) declaration promoted by the European Commission, already signed by 570 institutions in 43 countries. This declaration clearly states in one of the sections that “Inappropriate uses of journal- and publication-based metrics in research assessment should be abandoned. In particular, this means moving away from using metrics like the Journal Impact Factor (JIF), Article Influence Score (AIS), and h-index as proxies for quality and impact. ‘Inappropriate uses’ include:

  • relying exclusively on author-based metrics (e.g., counting papers, patents, citations, grants, etc.) to assess quality and/or impact;
  • assessing outputs based on metrics relating to publication venue, format, or language;
  • relying on any other metrics that do not properly capture quality and/or impact.

The ESAIC signed this declaration during the Euroanaesthesia 2023 meeting.

Therefore, the EJA (and the EJAIC, our new Open Access journal) will only focus on Editorial and scientific quality and no more on citability. The IF will no longer guide us for quality.

Note for the readers: This article was published as well on the European Journal of Anaesthesiology (EJA) website and can be retrieved on this LINK.

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1 reply

Enrico Giustiniano
Completely agree. Moreover, academic career should nit be based on publications and then IF. Too much often authors publish topic which they do not routinely cope with, but younger authors or residents work in
2 months ago

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