1. Computational and Systems Biology
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Meta-Research: Use of the Journal Impact Factor in academic review, promotion, and tenure evaluations

  1. Erin C McKiernan  Is a corresponding author
  2. Lesley A Schimanski
  3. Carol Muñoz Nieves
  4. Lisa Matthias
  5. Meredith T Niles
  6. Juan P Alperin  Is a corresponding author
  1. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
  2. Simon Fraser University, Canada
  3. Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  4. University of Vermont, United States
Feature Article
Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e47338 doi: 10.7554/eLife.47338
1 figure, 2 tables and 2 additional files


Grouping of terms related to the JIF.

Terms found in RPT documents were classified as either: (1) referring directly to the JIF (inner ring); (2) referring in some way to journal impact (middle ring); or (3) indirect but probable references to the JIF. For simplicity, singular versions of each term are shown, but searches included their plural equivalents. Our analysis is based only on those terms found in groups 1 and 2 (the two innermost rings).



Table 1
Sampling summary of universities from Canada and the United States.
Number in categoryNumber sampledPercent sampledNumber with documents
Table 2
Mentions of the JIF in RPT documents, overall and by institution type.

Note that percentages do not sum to one hundred in any given column, since many institutions had more than one JIF mention that could be classified differently. For example, an institution was marked as having a supportive mention if at least one RPT document from that institution, or any of its academic units, had a supportive mention. The same institution could also be counted under ‘cautious’ if a different academic unit within that institution had such a mention.

How many institutions mention the JIF?n129573933
JIF mentioned30 (23%)23 (40%)7 (18%)0 (0%)
Are the JIF mentions supportive or cautionary?n302370
supportive26 (87%)19 (83%)7 (100%)-
cautious4 (13%)3 (13%)1 (14%)-
neutral5 (17%)4 (17%)1 (14%)-
What do institutions measure with the JIF?n302370
quality19 (63%)14 (61%)5 (71%)-
impact/importance/significance12 (40%)8 (35%)4 (57%)-
prestige/reputation/status6 (20%)5 (22%)1 (14%)-
unspecified23 (77%)17 (74%)6 (86%)-

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