Mike Taylor, Head of Data Insights, and Grainne Farrell Manager – Corporate Life Science, Central Europe from Digital Science caught up with Garth Sundem, Communications Director at Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS). 

The Impact Factor

For a long time research was about understanding how well a journal was performing, dominated by the Impact Factor – the metric by which journals lived or died by. A metric that has been around for a very long time – with the original computation developed in approximately the late 50s. Eugene Garfield had to collate citations on pieces of card and run through a mechanical card reader, taking about a year to do those initial calculations. 

The design decisions to make those calculations hasn’t shifted much since. Therefore, those single metrics that we have to describe the performance of a journal are still embedded in the mindset of how it is that we think about a journal. 

This means that in medical affairs the goal is to place their publication in the journal with the highest impact factor. But, is it time to start looking at other metrics to choose where to place our publications?


The short answer is yes. But the question is, how do medical affairs make sense of all this data?

This is where Mike’s work on pulling together different metrics that help medical affairs comes in, helping people place their publications in the right journal, using data to choose a journal based on their audience. And be confident in choosing a smaller journal.

In the last four or five years we’ve acquired much more data and it has become much easier to make calculations. Where it took Eugene Garfield a year or so to collect data and to run those first comparisons, it can now take a few seconds. 

Not long ago working on the citescore metric, an equivalent to the impact factor, took three days to run the calculation. And if it had failed, it had failed, and you’d have to do it all over again. In the last five or so years, that technology has revolutionized. 

An audience centric approach

All this means we are now transitioning from a journal centric approach to an audience approach. And from thinking about what score can be achieved by placing a study in a journal, but who’s going to read it. 

And we can do the same for articles that are citing that journal. So we know if we’re hitting the right audience by looking at the people who are citing the piece, on platforms such as Twitter. Within this we can use sentiment analysis to measure the tone of conversations, is it positive or negative?

Publishing research in a journal is no longer the finish line. Now, it’s not only possible, but important, to take an audience-centric approach to choosing a journal, but this is the start line. We are now looking at continued engagement; watching how that research and information is received by the audience. The journal article is now only one touch point in an ecosystem of possible engagement opportunities. 

It’s now possible to measure the impact of that journal. And this is just the beginning.

Listen to our podcast with MAPS for more.