The distribution of forensic journals, reflections on authorship practices, peer-review and role of the impact factor

Forensic Sci Int. 2007 Jan 17;165(2-3):115-28. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2006.05.013. Epub 2006 Jun 19.


This article presents information about journals specializing in the forensic sciences and legal medicine, their development and distribution and their current status as reflected in the journal impact factor. The first scientific journal devoted to spreading information and reporting new developments in social and legal medicine seemingly originated in Germany about 150 years ago. The official journal of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (Journal of Forensic Sciences, JFS) was founded in 1956 and has enjoyed 50 years of scholarly publishing. The two leading European journals specializing in forensics are Forensic Science International (FSI) and International Journal of Legal Medicine (IJLM). Besides the size of the circulation, the readership numbers, the quality of the editorial staff and the peer-reviewers, the number of submitted and accepted manuscripts, considerable interest has focused on the journal's impact factor as a measure of prestige. The 2006 impact factor of a certain journal is derived by counting the number of citations in 2006 to all material published in the journal in the previous 2 years (2004 and 2005) and dividing this total by the number of citable items (articles and reviews) published in the same 2 years. Impact factors for several thousand scientific journals are compiled and published by a company called Thomson Institute for Scientific Information (Thomson ISI) and are available on-line via the database Journal Citation Reports. Forensic journals are grouped within the subject category Medicine, Legal, which currently comprises nine journals a few of which are seemingly unrelated to mainstream forensics. The top-ranked forensic journal in terms of its impact factor was IJLM with a score of just over 2.0 in 2004. This means that the average article published in 2003 and 2002 was cited twice per year in the 2-year window after publication. Impact factors of forensic journals are fairly low in comparison with many other disciplines, probably because of the small size of the field, fewer active researchers and less pressure to publish. The relatively low impact factors of forensic journals should be less of a concern than ensuring that manuscripts receive a rigorous and preferably an open peer-review prior to acceptance for publication. The information, conclusions and opinions published in forensic science journals might one day be proffered as evidence in criminal or civil litigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Authorship*
  • Bibliometrics*
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Forensic Sciences*
  • Humans
  • Peer Review, Research*
  • Periodicals as Topic / statistics & numerical data*