Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Citation rate unrelated to journals' impact factors


As rightly pointed out by David Colquhoun in Correspondence —“Challenging the tyranny of impact factors” (Nature 423, 479; 200310.1038/423479a) — the citation rate of the individual paper is essentially uncorrelated to the impact factor of the journal in which it was published.

Adding insult to injury, the impact factors of many journals also change over time. To quantify this further, I selected journals whose impact factor is available from 1992 to 2001 from Roman Woelfel's website ( When I compared data for more than 3,000 journals, I found that 26.8% of them had at least doubled their impact factors over this time period, whereas 1.8% had decreased by up to half.

A few journals (1.9%) had increased their impact factor more than tenfold by 2001, although most of these had very low impact factors to start with. Among the most notable increases from 1992 to 2001: Behavioral and Brain Sciences from 0.30 to 17.31; CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians from 5.02 to 35.93; Current Opinion in Immunology from 2.16 to 13.72; The Journal of the American Medical Association from 5.56 to 17.57.

Notable decreases included the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology's FASEB Journal from 18.21 to 8.82 and Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics from 13.0 to 3.94.

When scientists are being evaluated on the basis of the impact factors of the journals in which they publish, such distortions should be kept in mind.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Waheed, A. Citation rate unrelated to journals' impact factors. Nature 426, 495 (2003).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing