Author + information
- Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD∗ ()
- Zena and Michael A. Wiener Cardiovascular Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York
- ↵∗Address correspondence to:
Dr. Valentin Fuster, Zena and Michael A. Wiener Cardiovascular Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, One Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, New York 10029.
A few months ago, we learned that the Journal of the American College of Cardiology had achieved the number 1 status for Impact Factor among the 125 cardiovascular journals in the world. This was a tremendous honor for the Journal, and one for which I must applaud the work of my predecessor, Dr. Tony DeMaria. This distinction has led me to intensely consider the meaning behind Impact Factor, which is published annually by Thomson Reuters and is based on the approximate average number of citations for a given journal.
Since its inception in 1955, much has been written about the concept of Impact Factor. In fact, Dr. C. Hoffel adeptly wrote a letter about the quandary in 1998 in Allergy:
Impact Factor is not a perfect tool to measure the quality of articles but there is nothing better and it has the advantage of already being in existence and is, therefore, a good technique for scientific evaluation. Experience has shown that in each specialty the best journals are those in which it is most difficult to have an article accepted, and these are the journals that have a high Impact Factor. Most of these journals existed long before the impact factor was devised. The use of Impact Factor as a measure of quality is widespread because it fits well with the opinion we have in each field of the best journals in our specialty (1).
Even one of the cocreators of the Impact Factor, Dr. Eugene Garfield, spoke about its imperfections at the Impact Factor Fifth International Congress on Peer Review in Biomedical Publication in Chicago in 2005 (2). However, as Garfield pointed out, it seems highly improbable that a new evaluation system wherein individual papers are read and evaluated for quality will be implemented. Thus, this system—however complicated or imperfect—currently exists as the main metric by which to scrutinize the importance of scientific and medical journals.
The annual announcement of Impact Factor fosters incredible competition among the top-ranked journals. And, while attending the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona in August, countless people questioned me about the pressures of maintaining this status. Each time I received this question, I was reminded how reviewers often advocate for original studies to be accepted, because they will be highly cited and could affect the Journal’s Impact Factor. Personally, when faced with such claims, I always ask, “Is this study going to impact practice?” This is where the real value lies‐in publishing papers that can help inform the clinician with his or her patients. Although I acknowledge that some of these papers could be highly cited, I usually recommend that we not accept the manuscript, because “citability” or the Impact Factor is not reason enough to publish a paper. If we are only looking to further the reputation of our journals without bringing true value to our readers, then we are doing our readers a disservice—when our only goal should be to serve them.
Another important aspect related to Impact Factor is that the top 3 cardiovascular journals are separated by <0.65 points (Table 1). If you consider the minuscule differences separating us and how quickly these numbers can fluctuate, it suddenly seems superfluous that people try to predict each year’s ranking with such fervor. More importantly, focusing on Impact Factor could distract from the more important goal of serving our readers with the highest-quality papers that will help them improve patient treatment—starting with fellows to the most seasoned subspecialist. In the Journal, we have recently implemented editorial decisions simply because they serve these varied communities. In every issue, we have a Fellows-in-Training/Early Career Page, where we give young cardiovascular specialists a prominent forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with being at an early stage of one’s career. Each issue is accompanied by an audio recording, available as a downloadable podcast, to describe the thrust of the overall issue, in addition to providing my perspective on each paper. These decisions were made with the goal of serving our readers, even though they will not move Impact Factor.
As physicians, we all need to continue to learn and change based on high-quality data, which are published in prestigious journals. We, as the editors of these journals, cannot become consumed with competing with each other, but must instead propel the quality of medical publishing together. This brings to mind an old quote by former U.S. President Harry Truman: “it is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit” (3). We have an important responsibility as the editors of these journals, and we must serve the best interest of our readers, not get consumed with earning accolades nor taking credit.
Please do not mistake my message. I am honored to be serving as the Editor-in-Chief of JACC, but it is truly this concept of service that drives many of my decisions for the Journal. However, successful journals require clearly defined goals. At JACC, our goal is to publish comprehensive, clinical papers of the highest translational value. This does not mean we do not publish basic science papers, but we only consider basic science papers with a clear translational path to clinical application. As editors, we need to establish clear goals among our board members, in order to collectively and consistently deliver high quality to our readers. I will continue to use my intellect and conscience to drive decisions at the Journal—and I encourage our associate editors to do the same.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation
- ↵Garfield E. The agony and the ecstasy—the history and the meaning of the journal Impact Factor. Paper presented at: International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication; September 16, 2005; Chicago, IL.
- ↵Harry S. Truman quotes. Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/203941.Harry_S_Truman. Accessed September 2, 2014.
- Web of Science. Journal Citation Reports. Available at: http://wokinfo.com/products_tools/analytical/jcr/. Accessed September 2, 2014.