Use of the Journal Impact Factor in academic review, promotion, and tenure evaluations

Elife. 2019 Jul 31;8:e47338. doi: 10.7554/eLife.47338.


We analyzed how often and in what ways the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) is currently used in review, promotion, and tenure (RPT) documents of a representative sample of universities from the United States and Canada. 40% of research-intensive institutions and 18% of master's institutions mentioned the JIF, or closely related terms. Of the institutions that mentioned the JIF, 87% supported its use in at least one of their RPT documents, 13% expressed caution about its use, and none heavily criticized it or prohibited its use. Furthermore, 63% of institutions that mentioned the JIF associated the metric with quality, 40% with impact, importance, or significance, and 20% with prestige, reputation, or status. We conclude that use of the JIF is encouraged in RPT evaluations, especially at research-intensive universities, and that there is work to be done to avoid the potential misuse of metrics like the JIF.

Keywords: academic careers; computational biology; higher education; impact factor; institutional policy; none; scholarly communications; systems biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Career Mobility*
  • Humans
  • Journal Impact Factor*
  • Research Personnel*
  • United States
  • Universities
  • Work Performance*