What’s next for JCR: defining ‘Early Access'

Last month, we announced the introduction of Early Access content into the Journal Citation Reports™ (JCR). In this article, we provide further details on how we define Early Access content and how it will be introduced into the 2021 JCR release. Interested in what the inclusion of Early Access content might mean for 2022 Journal Citation Reports? We cover that here.


What is ‘Early Access’ for the Web of Science?

We define Early Access as Version of Record content that is published online prior to final assignment in a completed volume/issue. We are using as “A fixed version of a journal article that has been made available by any organization that acts as a publisher by formally and exclusively declaring the article ’published’.” Although this definition refers to articles specifically, we apply this concept more broadly to any document type provided it meets the same criteria.
To qualify as Early Access, content must:

  • be the version of record that will not change, aside from the final assignment in a volume/issue
  • include a DOI that will not change
  • include an Early Access publication date
  • include the cited references if present in the version of record
  • not include volume, issue, page range, final publication date
  • be published in a journal with a volume/issue model*

* Journals that follow a continuous article publication (CAP), “build online” model or publish only in print are not eligible for Early Access indexing.


What’s changing for JCR?

We are introducing Early Access to the 2021 JCR release (2020 data) using a phased, prospective approach to accommodate timing differences in publisher onboarding. We will use the Early Access publication year for 2020 and subsequent years; for prior years, we will use the final publication year. This approach is consistent with previous prospective policy changes and brings more consistency to JCR handling of Early Access with the Web of Science™ and InCites™ .

The majority of articles have an Early Access publication date that is within the same calendar year as the final publication date. Our treatment of these items in JCR will not change under the new policy. For the minority of Early Access content where the Early Access publication date is in a different year from the final publication date, we will only use the Early Access date. For example, citations from an article published with an Early Access date of 2020 and a final publication date of 2021 will contribute to the numerator of the 2020 Journal Impact Factor™ (JIF) but not to the 2021 JIF; that same article will contribute to the denominator of the 2021 JIF and the 2022 JIF but not to the 2023 JIF. In contrast, a non-Early Access item with a publication date of 2021 will contribute citations to the 2021 JIF and contribute to the denominator of the 2022 JIF and the 2023 JIF.

2020 JIF numerator

Starting with content indexed in 2020, we will include items in the JCR according to the earliest availability of the Version of Record. This means that the 2020 JIF numerator will include citations from:

  • Early Access items with an early access year of 2020
  • Early Access items with a final publication year of 2020 and an Early Access year of 2019 or earlier*
  • Non-Early Access items with a final publication year of 2020

* This is a transitional step for the 2021 JCR release (2020 data) only.


2020 JIF denominator

There will be no Early Access contribution to the 2020 JIF denominator; the denominator will only include citable items with a final publication date of 2018 and 2019.

Learn more about the Journal Citation Reports, the world’s leading journals with publisher-neutral data.