Does the Journal Impact Factor Help Make a Good Indicator of Academic Performance?
Sudhanshu K. Mishra
North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU)
October 8, 2009
Is journal impact factor a good measure of research merit? This question has assumed a great importance after the notification of the University Grants Commission (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education) Regulations, 2009 on September 23rd 2009. Now publication of research papers/articles in reputed journals has become an important factor in assessment of the academic performance of teachers in colleges and universities in India. One of the measures of reputation and academic standard (rank or importance) of a journal is the so-called ‘Impact Factor.’ This study makes a detailed statistical analysis of Journal Impact Factors across the disciplines. It finds that if journal impact factor is used to assess the academic performance of individuals (for the purpose of selection, promotion, etc) and it is not borne in mind that due to vast differences in the nature of distribution of impact factors across the disciplines they are not justifiably comparable, a below average scholar in the one discipline will rank higher and will be honored (and benefitted) more than another scholar in some other discipline (wherein the journal impact factor is adversely skewed). It may be noted that in the university departments there are specializations with low impact factor journals and other specializations with very high impact factor journals. But the teachers/researchers of different specializations in the departments compete with each other for promotion. In this milieu, the researchers with an unfortunate specialization (wherein the journal impact factor is mingy or adversely skewed) would receive injustice is plainly predetermined. Therefore, a measure such as the h-index which quantifies the quality as well as productivity of an individual author/scholar would be more appropriate than the journal impact factor. The h-index may be fine-tuned and hence the g-index or Tol’s index may be used. Nevertheless, even the h-index and the Tol’s index would not be appropriate to the purpose of inter-disciplinary or inter-specialization comparisons. A more informed and balanced judgment of the expert committee for selection, appointment and promotion purposes will continue to be extremely important.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 13
Keywords: Journal impact factor, University Grants Commission, regulation, India, UGC, Higher education, academic performance indicator, API, Hirsch, h-index, Tol, g index, skewness, service conditions, statistical analysis
JEL Classification: I28, J45, J58working papers series
Date posted: October 10, 2009 ; Last revised: May 11, 2010
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