European Respiratory Society

To the Editors:

The following statement was adopted unanimously at the May 17, 2009, meeting of the International Respiratory Journal Editors Roundtable.

In our collective experience as editors of international peer-reviewed journals, we propose that the impact factor calculated for individual journals should not be used as a basis for evaluating the significance of an individual scientist's past performance or scientific potential. There are several reasons not to equate the impact factor of a journal in which the scientist publishes with the quality of the scientist's research. For example, as revealed by several recently published analyses of the impact factor 16:

1) A journal's impact factor is determined by a decided minority of its published manuscripts. Thus the impact factor correlates poorly with the citations of an individual manuscript.

2) The impact factor does not consider the number of scientists actively producing research in a given specialty field. Indeed, some journals feel the need to serve constituencies with relatively small numbers of participants who continue to address important questions even though the number of scientists available for citations is limited.

3) A journal's impact factor can be inflated by certain journal practices, such as publication of many review articles.

4) Impact factor measures only the frequency of citations which cannot be assumed to always equate with quality.

There are alternative and we believe more valid measures of the quality and impact of an individual scientist's published contributions. First, a citation record for the individual candidate is readily available via several types of Internet search engines. Second, the time-honoured practice of soliciting evaluations concerning the significance of a candidate's work from scientific peers who are carefully selected to be both highly qualified as well as clearly “arms-length” from the candidate should be rigorously applied.

Statement of interest

Statements of interest for V. Brusasco, A.T. Dinh-Xuan and K.B. Adler can be found at


The International Respiratory Journal Editors Roundtable thank J.A. Dempsey, Editor of the Journal of Applied Physiology, for preparing the original draft of this statement, which was reviewed, altered, and edited by the Roundtable members.