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Impact Factor Denied to 20 Journals For Self-Citation, Stacking

This year, Clarivate Analytics, publishers of the Journal Citation Reports (JCR), suppressed 20 journals, 14 for high levels of self-citation and six for citation stacking — a pattern known informally as a “citation cartel.” In addition, it assigned an Editorial Expression of Concern to five journals after it became aware of citation anomalies following the completion of the 2018 report. Suppression from the JCR lasts one year.

Police officer writing ticket

Titles are suppressed when either self-citation or stacking distorts the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) and rank of a journal such that it does not fairly reflect the journal’s citation performance in the literature. This can happen through self-citation, particularly when there is a concentration of citations to papers published in the previous two years, or when there is a high level of JIF-directed citations between two or more journals. The first citation cartel was identified in 2012, involving four biomedical journals. Other cartels have been identified in soil sciences, bioinformatics, and business. The JCR publishes annual lists of suppressed titles with key data and descriptions.

Suppression for High Levels of Self-Citation

Full TitleCategory % Self cites in JIF numerator% Distortion of category rank
Aquaculture Economics & ManagementFisheries56%35%
Archives of BudoSport Sciences45%34%
Canadian Historical ReviewHistory63%49%
Chinese Journal of International LawInternational Relations51%33%
Chinese Journal of International LawLaw51%34%
Chinese Journal of Mechanical EngineeringEngineering, Mechanical48%27%
Eurasia Journal of Mathematics Science and Technology EducationEducation & Educational Research62%36%
International Journal of American LinguisticsLinguistics64%36%
International Journal of Applied MechanicsMechanics48%36%
International Journal of Civil EngineeringEngineering, Civil59%27%
Journal of MicropalaeontologyPaleontology51%40%
Journal of VoiceOtorhinolaryngology47%45%
Maritime Policy & ManagementTransportation54%31%
Pediatric DentistryDentistry, Oral Surgery & Medicine48%44%
Pediatric DentistryPediatrics48%33%
Psychoanalytic QuarterlyPsychology, Psychoanalysis70%46%

Suppression for Citation Stacking

Recipient JournalDonor Journal% JIF Numerator% Exchange to JIF Years
European Journal of the History of Economic ThoughtHistory of Economic Ideas56%86%
Journal of the History of Economic ThoughtHistory of Economic Ideas64%88%
Liver CancerDigestive Diseases40%95%
Liver CancerOncology23%85%

Journals Receiving an Editorial Expression of Concern

  • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Letters
  • Journal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy
  • Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology
  • Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
  • Bone Research

The JCR has a public document explaining the guidelines it uses to evaluate journals for suppression. However, as illustrated through reverse engineering previously suppressed titles, threshold levels are set extremely high, so high, that a journal that increased its Impact Factor by nearly 5-fold and moved to first-place among its subject category can escape suppression. Nevertheless, suppression from the JCR has been shown to drastically reduce levels of self-citation following reintroduction. If the JCR were traffic cops, they appear to be stopping only the most reckless drivers.

Phil Davis

Phil Davis

Phil Davis is a publishing consultant specializing in the statistical analysis of citation, readership, publication and survey data. He has a Ph.D. in science communication from Cornell University (2010), extensive experience as a science librarian (1995-2006) and was trained as a life scientist. https://phil-davis.org/

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