Journal Citation Reports 2022: COVID-19 research continues to drive increased citation impact

Today we release the 2022 update to the annual Journal Citation Reports (JCR)™. This year’s release demonstrates the enormous impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on scholarly publishing. We also identify and define a new type of anomalous citation behavior: self-stacking.

The annual JCR release enables the research community to evaluate the world’s high-quality academic journals using a range of indicators, descriptive data and visualizations. The reports are used extensively by academic publishers across the globe to understand the scholarly impact of their journals relative to their field and promote them to the research community.

This year’s JCR release is based on 2021 data compiled from the Web of Science Core Collection™, the leading collection of quality journals, books and conference proceedings in the world’s largest publisher-neutral global citation database. Publications are evaluated by a global team of in-house editors at Clarivate™ using rigorous selection criteria. The data from selected content are then carefully curated to ensure accuracy in the JCR metrics, together with a wide body of descriptive data. These insights enable researchers, publishers, editors, librarians and funders to explore the key drivers of a journal’s value for diverse audiences.

COVID-19 continues to influence every aspect of scholarly publishing, just as it has affected every aspect of society

Through the carefully selected and curated data within the Journal Citation Reports, we can fully appreciate and understand the enormous impact of the academic community’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As researchers explored the origins, spread and ramifications of the virus, working at speed to create new therapies and vaccines, we see this reflected in the trusted insights contained in the annual JCR. The effects of this pandemic will continue to be seen in the literature and citation impact for decades, particularly under the lens of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 on Health and Wellbeing. We are proud to support the research community and the UN SDGs with expertly curated data that informs decisions and helps them accelerate the pace of innovation.

This year’s release sees continued notable increases in citation impact for journals in the fields of general medicine, critical care, public health, infectious diseases, immunology and basic biomedical sciences

  • This year The Lancet‘s Journal Impact Factor™ (JIF) of 202.731 has moved it to the #1 position in the general & internal medicine category, overtaking the New England Journal of Medicine, which has been the top-ranked title in that category since the first release of the JCR 45 years ago. Of the 10 articles with the highest citation count in 2021, three appeared in The Lancet. All three are directly related to the characterization and treatment of COVID-19.
  • This year Nature earns the distinction of being the first ever journal to accumulate more than one million total citations in one year. Nature published 16 items with over 500 JIF citations – of which 12 items were COVID-19 related.
  • Seven journals had JIFs of more than 100 for the first time, all of which published high quantities of COVID-19 related research. These are the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Nature Reviews Immunology, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology and the New England Journal of Medicine.

We recently provided a comparison of JIF across each year-to-year interval from 2010 through 2021. You can view that here.

Upholding research integrity and a new type of citation distortion

To support objectivity in journal selection and the integrity of the reports, we have suppressed three journals from the JCR (without presumption or accusation of wrong doing), representing 0.01% of the journals listed. We suppress the JIF of journals that demonstrate anomalous citation behavior including where there is evidence of excessive journal self-citation and/or citation stacking. The methodology and parameters for the effect of journal self-citation on JCR metrics were updated in 2020 to better account for discipline norms. The suppression of a journal from the JCR does not equate to a de-listing from the Web of Science Core Collection although suppressed journals may be subject to editorial re-evaluation and will be removed from coverage if they fail.

In addition, this year the editorial integrity team at Clarivate identified a new type of anomalous citation behavior: self-stacking. This is where the journal contains one or more documents with citations that are highly concentrated to the JIF numerator of the title itself. This is the first year we have formally defined the criteria for self-stacking suppression, and as such we have made the decision to issue a warning to six journals rather than suppress the journal’s JIF. Going forward, continued journal self-stacking will result in suppression of JIF.

Clarivate continuously reviews content with the goal of developing additional screening for distortions of the JIF.

Key facts from the 2021 data:

  • The Journal Citation Reports contains more than 21,000 journals, from 254 research categories and 114 countries. This includes:
    • 12,800 science journals
    • 6,600 social science journals
    • 3,000 Arts and Humanities journals
  • Almost 13,000 journals have at least one gold open access publication
  • More than 5,300 journals publish all of their content via open access
  • 192 journals received a Journal Impact Factor for the first time

Each journal profile in the JCR provides a rich array of journal intelligence metrics and allows users to filter by category and rank. These include:

  • The Journal Citation Indicator, which represents the average category-normalized citation impact for papers published in the prior three-year period. All journals in the JCR are eligible to receive this metric as of 2021;
  • The Immediacy Index, which measures how frequently the journal’s content is cited within the same year as publication;
  • The journal’s rank in category, determined by Journal Impact Factor, expressed as a percentile;
    Cited half-life, which is the median age, in years, of items in the journal that were cited during the JCR year; and
  • The Journal Impact Factor, which scales the citations received to recent content by a measure of the size of the journal’s scholarly output.
  • In addition, the Journal Citation Reports include descriptive data such as open access content, top contributing institutions and regions.

Visit the Journal Citation Reports website to explore all available data, metrics and analysis. Interested to learn how Journal Citation Reports can inform your publishing strategy? Learn more here.

You can find more information including our suppression policy in the Journal Citation Reports Reference Guide.