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Sudden Impact

Every journal editor likes their publication to have a high impact factor, but things might be getting out of hand, writes publishing consultant Phil Davis at the academic publishing blog The Scholarly Kitchen.

Impact factor is a measure of a journal's influence devised and tracked by Thompson Reuters, and among the metrics including in calculating impact factor is the number of times a journal's articles are cited by other papers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has led some journal editors to try to goose their stats by publishing editorials citing a raft of papers from their own publication.

In his post, Davis highlights as one particularly flagrant example a recent editorial published in the Netherlands Heart Journal by its editor E.E. Van der Wall. That piece, Davis writes, "contains 25 self-citations to the NHJ, 24 of which cite articles written between 2010 and 2011 — the window from which the journal's next impact factor will be calculated."

More striking than the editorial itself, though, is the nakedness of its author's intentions, Davis says.

"The editor of the NHJ doesn't attempt to hide his intentions, which is, without remorse, to increase his journal's impact factor. Having analyzed what gets cited in his journal, Van der Wall is direct and forthcoming about his editorial intentions."

Davis doesn't entirely blame editors like Van der Wall, however. "Through selfless self-citation, editors are merely exploiting a loophole in the metrics system much like corporations exploit loopholes in the taxation system," he writes.

Or, as rapper Ice-T once put it: Don't hate the player, hate the game.