Free-Riding on Power Laws: Questioning the Validity of the Impact Factor as a Measure of Research Quality in Organization Studies
18 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2011
Date Written: June 8, 2011
The simplicity and apparent objectivity of the Institute for Scientific Information’s Impact Factor has resulted in its widespread use to assess the quality of organization studies journals and by extension the impact of the articles they publish and the achievements of their authors. After describing how such uses of the Impact Factor can distort both researcher and editorial behavior to the detriment of the field, I show how extreme variability in article citedness permits the vast majority of articles — and journals themselves — to free-ride on a small number of highly-cited articles. I conclude that the Impact Factor has little credibility as a proxy for the quality of either organization studies journals or the articles they publish, resulting in attributions of journal or article quality that are incorrect as much or more than half the time. The clear implication is that we need to cease our reliance on such a non-scientific, quantitative characterization to evaluate the quality of our work.
Keywords: Impact Factor
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