Appearing in the Chronicle of Higher Education a couple of days ago, “Tracking Scholarly Influence Beyond the Impact Factor” tackles an important issue that concerns librarians, publishers, and scholars. Written by Jennifer Howard, it raises some interesting questions about the value of the impact factor as a useful metric. The article quotes Peter Binfield of the Public Library of Science who claims that the impact factor “is a very blunt instrument.” Of course, Mr. Binfield is being somewhat self serving in that “PLoS works on an open-access model; the impact factor doesn’t reign supreme there as it does at so many subscription-based operations.” However, he does make an interesting argument for using a variety of article-level metrics that includes more than “usage statistics and citations.”
This seems part of a move toward “broader, alternative ways of measuring scholarly influence” called altmetrics that adds to the mix scholarly interactions like “how often an article is blogged about or bookmarked and what readers and media outlets are saying about it.” (Altmetrics is more fully discussed in another article by Ms. Howard entitled “Scholars Seek Better Ways to Track Impact Online”.)
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, “Tracking Scholarly Influence Beyond the Impact Factor” offers real food for thought and is well worth spending some time considering.
(You can also click here to listen to Jennifer Howard explain why it’s time for a new way of measuring scholarship’s reach.)