Open access journals and Impact Factors - Author Services

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Open access journals and Impact Factors

Common open access questions and myths explained

Frequently asked questions representationOpen access – the different types and trends, is one of the most widely discussed topics in scholarly publishing today. It’s also one of the most misunderstood, surrounded by a host of questions and myths. Publishing open access can have many benefits, including enabling your valuable research to reach a wider audience and have greater impact.

In this blog series we provide straightforward answers to help you get to grips with open access and what it means for you and your work. In this post, you’ll learn:

  • Why open access journals may (or may not) have Impact Factors
  • Questions around the use of Impact Factors in assessing research quality 
  • How to use different metrics when choosing an open access journal to publish in

For more guidance and support on publishing open access visit our open access guide. You can also sign up to our Open Access Bulletin for the latest news from the Taylor & Francis open research program.

‘Do open access journals have an Impact Factor?’

As with all journals, some open access journals have an Impact Factor and others don’t. Reasons why a journal might not have an Impact Factor include:

  • It may cover an Arts & Humanities subject, which isn’t listed in either the Social Sciences Citation Index or the Sciences Citation Index (the databases which Impact Factors are based on).
  • The journal may be in the process of applying for indexing in these databases
  • It might have chosen not to apply at all

So, whether an open access journal has an Impact Factor or not can’t be taken as an indicator of its quality or prestige since there are numerous reasons which could influence this.

Where open access journals do have an Impact Factor, these may not necessarily be higher or lower than subscription journals in the same field. That’s because the Impact Factor depends upon several complex aspects, such as the citation patterns of the subject area and type of articles published in the journal. For example, you might expect a well-read open access journal, which is available to everyone everywhere, to be highly cited. However, that may not be the case if the journal has a readership of practitioners, who won’t therefore usually cite research articles.

Read more about how the Impact Factor is calculated and learn what it might mean for your research and the journal(s) you publish in.

How important is a journal’s Impact Factor?  

You can check the Impact Factor of the open access journals we publish on the journal homepage on Taylor & Francis Online. We know from our researcher survey (p.9) that the Impact Factor is an important consideration for many when choosing which journal to publish in.

Download your copy of the researcher survey

However, increasingly we see researchers, funders and policymakers alike moving towards a broader understanding of impactThey recognize the need to assess scientific research on its own merits (beyond the Impact Factor of the journal it is published in) and call for a wider range of metrics and measures to support a fairer and more responsible approach to research assessment. 

Understanding impact using a range of metrics and measures  

When you publish in an open access journal, your work is available for anyone, anywhere to read. So, open access journals (and the research published within them) can generate impact in lots of different ways, from generating thousands of article downloads to making a difference to the lives of people:

“I received a response from the Times…[they] gave me the opportunity to mention it in a ‘letter to the editor’ on the Hinkley Point C reactor project.”

“This is a paper I wanted to be readily accessible to “on-the-ground” practitioners, in both speech-language pathology and teaching, in order for it to have translational impact on policy, practice, and pre-service education.”

There are quantitative measures (figures) and qualitative measures (e.g. opinions), which are all important. Learn about article metrics in the short video below:

Use a range when deciding where to publish so you can understand the bigger picture and in turn make a more informed choice. So, consider the different metrics available but ask questions too, such as:

  • Is the editorial board well-respected in your research community? 
  • Does it have international readership?
  • Is it referenced by policymakers? 

Listen to our podcast series ‘How Researchers Changed the World’ to get inspired on how your research could make a difference.

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