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Article Citations and Journal Impact Factor

June 30, 2010

Standing inthe crowd

One big surprise stands out in the Thomson Reuters’ 2009 Journal Citation Report released two weeks ago, as noted by Bob Grant in The Scientist:

… … the publication [journal] with second highest impact factor in the “science” category is Acta Crystallographica – Section A, knocking none other than the New England Journal of Medicine from the runner’s up position. This title’s impact factor rocketed up to 49.926 this year, more than 20-fold higher than last year. A single article published in a 2008 issue of the journal seems to be responsible for the meteoric rise in the Acta Crystallographica – Section A‘s impact factor. “A short history of SHELX,” by University of Göttingen crystallographer George Sheldrick, which reviewed the development of the computer system SHELX, has been cited more than 6,600 times, according to ISI. This paper includes a sentence that essentially instructs readers to cite the paper they’re reading — “This paper could serve as a general literature citation when one or more of the open-source SHELX programs (and the Bruker AXS version SHELXTL) are employed in the course of a crystal-structure determination.”

Curiously as reported on one of the Thomson Reuters Forums:

The next most-cited article [in Acta Cryst A], “On the application of an experimental multipolar pseudo-atom library for accurate refinement of small-molecule and protein crystal structures”, shows only 28 citations.

I heard of journal editors who implemented procedures for accepting manuscripts that expect to receive potential minimum citations (say 6 in two years following publication), but in this case Acta Cryst A is very lucky and as the commentator in the forum says:

Without another, similarly important article in 2010, Acta Crystallographica – Section A is likely to return in 2011 to its prior Journal Impact Factor of between 1.5 and 2.5.  A valued journal for specialists in this field.

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