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THE number of research papers published each year is growing. A recent study by Bornmann and Mutz (2014) estimated that global research output has been increasing by between 8 and 9 per cent every year since the end of the Second World War. If that figure is accurate, it equates to a doubling of research output every nine years.
With so many findings each year, it is useful to be able to assess the impact of published research. Research funding is not infinite, and funders and institutions often need to make tough decisions about how to distribute money for projects. As part of their decision-making process, they are likely to take into account a range of factors, including the tangible impact that the research could have in the field.
When considering research impact, many people first think of the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). However, this was never designed as a tool to gauge the impact of individual pieces of research, but rather the impact of academic journals. It was first devised in the 1960s as a means to help research libraries differentiate between journals when deciding which ones to subscribe to.
A journal's impact factor is based on two elements: the numerator is the number of times articles published in the preceding two years have been cited and the denominator is the total number of articles and reviews published in the same two years. So it is a measure of how frequently articles published in …
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