A quick refresher on Journal Citation Reports use cases, branding, and terms of use

Journal Citation Reports (JCR) has a long and rich history. It was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Eugene Garfield and Dr. Irving Sher. The main use case at the time remains the strongest use case today, and that is to assist librarians in managing their journal collections—to which journals should they subscribe, which ones are the strongest or most popular in their fields. Over the years, the use cases have expanded; JCR has become a valuable tool for publishers and for researchers as well.

The most well-known indicator in the JCR is the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). This measure provides a ratio of citations to a journal in a given year to the citable items in the prior two years—in other words, it is a measure of the frequency that the average article in a given journal has been cited. JIF allows users to seek out journals that, according to citations, are particularly impactful in their fields.

JIF is not, however, the end-all and be-all of journal indicators, and users should learn how to employ this indicator for maximum effectiveness, which is the comparison of journals within the same field. JIF varies widely by specialty – Medical journals tend to have higher JIF scores than, say, Management or Ecology journals. This variation is due to the size of the fields as well as publication rates. JIF scores should not be compared across fields. JCR does have a metric to compare journals across fields, the JIF Percentile, which takes relative field size into account in its score.

What constitutes proper use of JCR and JIF?

  • Librarians: Determining which journals to subscribe to in order to best support the needs of students, faculty, and researchers
  • Publishers/Editors: Understanding how their journals rank within their fields, and how they stack up against competitors
  • Researchers: Identifying in which high-impact journals to publish

The naming of our company and our products has evolved over the years, but the quality remains the same. We started out in the 1960s as the Institute for Scientific Information, or ISI. In the 1990s, we became part of Thomson (referred to as Thomson, Thomson Scientific, or Thomson ISI), and then Thomson Reuters. Similarly, there have been variety of names and attributions have been used to refer to JCR and JIF across the world of scholarly publications. You may see JCR referred to as being part of the Web of Science from when it was hosted on the Web of Science platform, to part of InCites, the platform on which it is currently hosted. You will see JIF referred to as simply Impact Factor or IF; we altered the name of this indicator in 2014, in order to emphasize the fact that JIF is a journal-based metric.

Now that we are Clarivate Analytics, we request that references be phrased as “Journal Citation Reports” and “Journal Impact Factor,” and the first time they are mentioned, to also be acknowledged as being from Clarivate Analytics. For example, “2015 Journal Citation Reports (Clarivate Analytics, 2016).”

The JCR data policy under Clarivate Analytics remains the same. Whenever JCR data is sampled or referenced, proper acknowledgement of the source is required, as outlined above. Wholesale sharing of JCR data outside a subscriber’s institution is strictly prohibited. Use of the JCR data for marketing, public relations, news stories, or publication as part of bibliographic or bibliometric research will require permission from Clarivate Analytics. We will ask to see the specific data and format in which the piece is to be published and will provide any additional information regarding citation of the source. 

For more information on data use, please see our Terms of Use. If you have questions about how to refer to JCR or about how you plan to use its data, or if you spot another website claiming some sort of “Impact Factor” and wish to report it to us, please open a support case and we will be happy to work with you.

JCR has a long and rich history, and here at Clarivate Analytics, we know this is only the beginning.

Useful Links:

Journal Citation Reports: A New Primer

Best Practices for Journal Evaluation

The State of Journal Evaluation