Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Assessing Impact at PLoS

PLoS ONE is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication featuring reports of original research from all disciplines within science and medicine. Earlier this summer, PLoS ONE received its 2010 journal impact factor from the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) of 4.411. This ranks the open access journal in 12th spot among 86 Biology journals. Receiving an impact factor from JCR is an important milestone for the journal and editors are surely celebrating but the editors at PLoS are not resting on this laurel. They recognize that they need to find new ways to showcase the impact that cannot be measured by the metrics provided by JCR.

Scholars are seeking improved ways to track their impact. Their work is not just being read by their disciplinary peers in traditional published avenues. The work of researchers is being accessed via the web, downloaded, bookmarked, tweeted, and blogged about on a global and interdisciplinary scale. This is increasing the impact of their research. Many scholars want to see these impacts accounted for in some way. So while, the JCR impact factor is still a major component of individual, departmental, and organizational evaluation, Open Access and alternative metrics are taking their place beside it.

In March 2009, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) became the first publisher to track transparent and comprehensive information about the usage and reach of published articles - rather than journals - so that the academic community has another avenue to help assess their value. These measures are called Article-Level Metrics (ALMs).

“Article-Level Metrics (ALM) offer direct, first-hand views of the dissemination and reach of research articles. ALM indicators capture the research footprint from the moment of publication and dynamically tracks its impact over time.” PLoS

To demonstrate global impact, all PLoS journals track citation metrics, usage statistics, blogosphere coverage, social bookmarks, community rating and expert assessment.

If you are at all interested in reading about the pros and cons behind the various ways to demonstrate scholarly impact here are some links to follow:

  • Hirsch, J. E. (2005). An index to quantify an individual's scientific research output. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102(46), 16569-16572.
  • Howard, J. (January 29, 2012). Scholars seek better ways to track impact online. The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Wouters, Paul and Costas, Rodrigo. Users, narcissism and control – tracking the impact of scholarly publications in the 21st century. SURF foundation, 2012.
Web Guide
If you would like to discuss article metrics and impact factors please contact Jane Burpee, Research Enterprise and Scholarly Communication Team, Library (

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