Hate journal impact factors? Try Google rankings instead

18 11 2013

pecking orderA lot of people hate journal impact factors (IF). The hatred arises for many reasons, some of which are logical. For example, Thomson Reuters ISI Web of Knowledge® keeps the process fairly opaque, so it’s sometimes difficult to tell if journals are fairly ranked. Others hate IF because it does not adequately rank papers within or among sub disciplines. Still others hate the idea that citations should have anything to do with science quality (debatable, in my view). Whatever your reason though, IF are more or less here to stay.

Yes, individual scientists shouldn’t be ranked based only on the IF of the journals in which they publish; there are decent alternatives such as the h-index (which can grow even after you die), or even better, the m-index (or m-quotient; think of the latter as a rate of citation accumulation). Others would rather ditch the whole citation thing altogether and measure some element of ‘impact’, although that elusive little beast has yet to be captured and applied objectively.

So just in case you haven’t already seen it, Google has recently put its journal-ranking hat in the ring with its journal metrics. Having firmly wrested the cumbersome (and expensive) personal citation accumulators from ISI and Scopus (for example) with their very popular (and free!) Google Scholar (which, as I’ve said before, all researchers should set-up and make available), they now seem poised to do the same for journal rankings.

So for your viewing and arguing pleasure, here are the ‘top’ 20 journals in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology according to Google’s h5-index (the h-index for articles published in that journal in the last 5 complete years; it is the largest number h such that h articles published in 2008-2012 have at least h citations each):

  1. Ecology Letters 83
  2. Biological Conservation 58
  3. Conservation Biology 57
  4. Journal of Applied Ecology 54
  5. Ecological Applications 53
  6. Journal of Ecology 52
  7. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 51
  8. Journal of Biogeography 47
  9. Diversity and Distributions 44
  10. Global Ecology and Biogeography 44
  11. Biological Invasions 40
  12. Biodiversity and Conservation 40
  13. Ecological Indicators 40
  14. Ecography 38
  15. Landscape Ecology 37
  16. Conservation Letters 35
  17. Journal of Vegetation Science 33
  18. Journal of Wildlife Management 32
  19. Conservation Genetics 29
  20. Basic and Applied Ecology 28

You can play with other subdiscipline rankings if you wish. Perhaps these can assist you in making that important decision about where to submit your important scientific work.

CJA Bradshaw



6 responses

18 02 2016
How to rank journals | ConservationBytes.com

[…] interested in why the new kid on the block — Google Scholar Metrics — gave at times rather wildly different ranks of the journals in which I was […]

Liked by 1 person

1 08 2014
A fairer way to rank conservation and ecology journals in 2014 | ConservationBytes.com

[…] late this year, for some reason), I’m going to compare them to the increasingly reputable Google Scholar Journal Metrics, which intuitively make more sense to me, are transparent and turn a little of the rankings dogma […]


3 12 2013
27 11 2013
Daniel Palacios

I’m pleased to see Google put out their own journal rankings that are a bit more democratic than the exclusive ISI Web of Knowledge or Scopus services, which have had the monopoly until now. In addition, Google also recently started offering their own online reference management system with “Scholar Library” (I just activated mine), which can be linked to an individual’s “Scholar Citations”. (see: http://googlescholar.blogspot.com/2013/11/google-scholar-library.html?m=1). So far so good… and Mendeley, Papers2, Zotero, EndNote: better watch out!

However, as it turns out, Google struck a deal with Thomson Reuters to link Scholar searches to Web of Science content (see: http://www.against-the-grain.com/2013/11/newsflash-thomson-reuters-google-scholar-linkage-offers-big-win-for-stm-users-and-publishers/). So, to some degree, they are all in this together. Obviously TR had been missing out on search results from Google Scholar, which not always lead to the journal’s page. It remains to be seen how restrictive the new Google Scholar searches will become.


19 11 2013
Google impact factors | Nick Fountain-Jones

[…] article by Corey Bradshaw about Google Impact Factors and ecology https://conservationbytes.com/2013/11/18/hate-journal-impact-factors-try-google-rankings-instead/. Ecology letters, as you would expect, rates highest (83) but Biological Conservation (58) and […]


19 11 2013
Tobias Jeppsson (@tobjep)

A problem with using the h5-index for comparing journals is that it relates to the number of papers published per year (the number of journal “attempts”). Therefore, a large journal (such as Biological conservation) will have a higher probability of getting a high h5 (even if most papers get few citation) than a small journal, everything else equal. A rescaled measure, similar to the “article influence score” should be more appropriate, at least if you want to quantify the “average quality” of contributions to a journal. However, for overall journal “impact” the h-index is maybe fair.

In this particular case, the scaling issue is one reason why “Biodiversity and Conservation” and “Biological Conservation” comes out fairly high, while “Conservation letters” and “Animal Conservation” (goes unlisted in Google top-20) comes out low, as compared to rankings based on Impact factor or Article influence score. However, I’m all for Google adding journal info to Google scholar. I just wished that they included more information than the h5-score.


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