Sunday, 16 August 2015

In addition to the impact factor: The paper and the dissemination of knowledge in medicine


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Portuguese Journal of Allergology

Print ISSN 0871-9721

Rev Port Imunoalergologia vol.23 no.2 Lisbon June 2015

In addition to the impact factor: The paper and the dissemination of knowledge in medicine

John Fonseca

Unit Imunoalergologia, CUF Hospital and Port Institute

CINTESIS - Center for Health Services Research and Technology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto

Secretary-General of the Portuguese Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology


An old story about a scientific publication can be told briefly.
Coffee, a doctor says to the other: "He just left a great article which
proves that in patients with ... [select reader a clinical situation]
is better ... [therapeutic or diagnostic intervention] than ... [further

The other doctor replies, "This has even my grandmother knew!"

The first doctor said quietly, "It was worth your grandmother have been published."

The paper is one of the publication of new advances in medical knowledge formats.
The processes of editorial selection and peer review are crucial as
most valued form of presentation of results of a research work in

The publication of a scientific paper is now the most visible and
persistent way in time for the dissemination of these results, also
becoming a showcase of authors and institutions that produce them - the
icing on the cake will say some, the best cakes will tell others.

To the affirmation and growth of a clinical area is essential consistent production and quality scientific papers.
Also for training and updating of experts in the clinical area, the
preparation and holding of a paper published in the form of paper is a
challenge and a unique educational experience.

This primacy of the article imply that many other forms of
dissemination of new clinical knowledge are also not necessary and

On the contrary the (good) discussions between colleagues,
communication in meetings and conferences (and respective abstracts),
the disclosure in non average and new media or without peer review
publications such as books or monographs, complement and expand the
functions scientific articles.

We have witnessed an exponential growth of scientific papers fueled by
factors such as increased research, technological advances or even
enhancing the importance of the paper.

In nearly two decades have passed from lack of access to scientific
information for the imperiousness to choose from the vast amount of
scientific articles produced.

Today we ask ourselves how to look for the one and how to select them.
The selection will depend surely the reason why we want to read but, in
general, be sure that the more articles cited by other authors will
have a greater interest.
However, just last too long we know that articles are cited more often.

What we do know is that articles published in journals that have cited articles usually have a lot more quotes.

These magazines are the most prestigious, the most sought for
publication and therefore more demanding in the choice of articles they
Consequently, the articles published there tend to have more quality and importance, which is why most cited.

The Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) now part of the Web of Science from Thomson Reuters, devised a measure of the impact of a magazine using the number of citations -. The impact factor (IF) 2
The FI accounts for citations in a given year the articles published in
the two previous years in journals included in the Science Citation
Index, the most demanding database indexing journals.

The calculation of the FI is the ratio between the number of citations
to articles published in the journal during the previous two years had
that year and the number of published articles - the magazine x 2014 FI
is equal number of citations of articles published in 2014 in 2012-13 in
the magazine x dividing by the number of articles published in
2012-> 13 in the same journal.
Simply put we could say that an article published in the journal Allergy, for example, have an average of 6 citations in the following two years ( Table 1 ). The IF of a journal can be searched in the Journal of citations reports (JCR), 3 a paid feature of Thomson Reuters, the Portuguese institutions have access through the online knowledge library ( By June of each year are published FI last year. In 2015 he was presented the 40th edition. The Allergy
category has 24 journals indexed and the aggregate impact factor of
these 22 magazines 4047, corresponding to the 22nd place of 232
categories of all scientific areas that are part of JCR.
In Table 1 are listed in descending order the ten journals with high impact factor indexed Allergy JCR category in 2014.

The FI is widely used to be a simple, easy to understand and which showed its value over the decades.
However, as there are no perfect measures have been many criticisms of
FI4 and their use for the purpose for which it was not designed.
The IF can not be used to assess the impact of an article in concrete, but a journal.
Probably the most frequent criticism (but not the most important) made
the FI is the inability to be used to compare journals from different
scientific areas - the number of citations varies widely among
scientific fields, for example by differences in scientific production
but also for nature own areas and citation habits.
They emerged, so other more advanced metrics such as Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP)
that takes into account the total number of citations of a particular
scientific field, which lets you compare journals from different areas.
In addition to other improvements over the FI the SNIP is freely accessible 5 but still be less known.
Already this year 2015 Thomson Reuters showed the impact factor
percentile of a magazine, which normalizes the FI, allowing comparison
between journals from different areas.

There are several other bibliometric measures, ie, the statistical
analysis of publications and their citations used in specific

In addition to the bibliometric measures, the analysis of the spread
and the impact that a particular item has today can be measured by
analyzing the references to the article on the Internet (Webometrics).
In 2010, we proposed a more general measure of the impact of the articles - the altmetrics, 6 that besides the quotes incorporates the number of views of the articles, downloads, references in knowledge bases, in the media and traditional media social.

This measure can be applied to magazines, people or institutions, for
example, competing so oh-index, a metric widely used to evaluate the
productivity and scientific impact of a researcher or group. 7
Still on the subject of dissemination of knowledge using the Internet,
reference is made to communication tools directed to the interests of
each element of scientific communities and help to know the articles
that are being published.
Examples are the Research Gate ( ), Researcher ID or .
In many cases it is also autoarquivo repositories of complete articles
by authors, allowing access articles published in journals to which we
do not have free access.

In short, the scientific article is the primary means of dissemination of medical knowledge advances. The rapid changes of the last decades made it necessary to learn how to search and select the papers.

The impact factor was one of the first metrics used to measure the
impact of scientific publication, it is widely used because it is easy
to interpret but also easy to use inappropriately.

We are witnessing the increasing use of other measures that help us
better understand the spread and impact of journals and scientific
papers, but also of the authors and groups / institutions.


1. Jacinto T, Morais, Fonseca, J A. How to write a scientific paper - Searching and Managing Biomedical information. Rev Port Pneumol 2011; 17 (4): 190> -4

2. The Thomson Reuters Impact factor.

3. Journal of citation reports.

4. Fooladi M, H Salehi, Yunus MM, Farhadi M, Chadegani AA, Farhadi, H, et al. Does Criticisms Overcome the Praises of Journal Impact Factor ?. Asian Social Science 2013; 9 (5): 176-82

5. Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) Journal Indicators.

6. Priem J, Taraborelli D, P Groth, Neylon C, Altmetrics: The manifesto, 26 October 2010.

7. Jones T, S Huggett, Kamalski J. Finding a way through the scientific literature: indexes and Measures. World Neurosurg 2011; 76 (1-2): 36-8


John Fonseca


Hospital and Institute

Road Circunvalação 14341

4100-180 Oporto

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