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Publishing metrics

The range of models used to measure the impact of journals and articles is constantly increasing, though most are based on the level of citations. As a signatory to DORA, the Royal Society offers a variety of journal and article-based metrics.

Impact factor

The impact factor is a measure of how often an average article in a journal has been cited. It is calculated by dividing the number of current year citations to source items published in that journal during the previous 2 years.

While the impact factor is a relatively easy measure to calculate and understand, it does have some limitations. Given the highly skewed nature of the citation distribution of a journal's articles, the appropriateness of using a mean has been questioned. Also, most journals contain a significant proportion of articles that are never cited. Such articles can be seen as ‘benefiting’ unfairly from the impact factor of the journal in which they appear.

Journal 2017 Impact factor Rank 5 year impact factor Cited half-life Immediacy index
Proceedings A 2.410 18th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’ 2.464 >10 0.535
Proceedings B 4.847 9th out of 85 in ‘Biology’ 5.611 9.2 0.760
Philosophical Transactions A 2.746 16th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’ 3.100 8.7 1.923
Philosophical Transactions B 5.666 7th out of 85 in ‘Biology’ 7.192  7.8 3.443
Interface 3.355 13th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’ 4.216 5.4 0.440
Biology Letters 3.345 16th out of 85 in ‘Biology’ 3.556 6.4 0.542
Interface Focus 3.165 18th out of 85 in ‘Biology’ 3.624 4.4 1.627
Open Biology 3.286 116th out of 292 in ‘Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’ 3.830 3.3 0.746
Royal Society Open Science 2.504 17th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’ 2.642 1.9 0.406
  • 5 year impact factor: is the impact factor calculated using a base of 5 years’ worth of cited articles, rather than 2. This gives a fairer picture of journals in fields with slower citation patterns, such as mathematics.
  • Cited half-life: the number of years, counting back from the current year, which account for half the total citations received by the cited journal in the current year. This provides a measure of how ‘long-lived’ the articles are in terms of their influence on the literature.
  • Immediacy index: the average number of times that an article is cited in the same year it is published. It gives an indication of how topical the material in the journal is.


The Eigenfactor gives an indication of the overall contribution of the journal, as a whole, to the literature.

It does this using an algorithm similar to that of Google's ‘PageRank’ to count citations into and out of the journal and to weight them according to the ranking of the source or destination. It uses the Thomson Reuters journal dataset and it is intended to measure how likely a journal is to be used or the amount of time a reader will spend reading it. Large journals rank more highly in the Eigenfactor system than small journals (in contrast to the impact factor, which is independent of size).

Journal 2017 Eigenfactor Eigenfactor Rank Article Influence Article Influence Rank
Proceedings A 0.01827 13th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’ 1.068 15th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’
Proceedings B 0.08756 2nd out of 85 in ‘Biology’ 2.170 9th out of 85 in ‘Biology’
Philosophical Transactions A 0.02822 12th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’ 1.314 14th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’
Philosophical Transactions B 0.07129 3rd out of 85 in ‘Biology’ 2.951 6th out of 85 in ‘Biology’
Interface 0.03096 11th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’ 1.474 11th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’
Biology Letters 0.02164 8th out of 85 in ‘Biology’ 1.309 17th out of 85 in ‘Biology’
Interface Focus 0.00512 23rd out of 85 in 'Biology' 1.165 19th out of 85 in ‘Biology’
Open Biology 0.00856 122nd out of 292 in ‘Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’ 1.554 66th out of 292 in ‘Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’
Royal Society Open Science 0.00926 15th out of 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’ 0.948 18th out 64 in ‘Multidisciplinary Sciences’
  • Article influence: measures the relative importance of the journal on a per-article basis. It is the journal's Eigenfactor Score divided by the fraction of articles published by the journal. That fraction is normalised so that the sum total of articles from all journals is 1. The mean Article Influence Score is 1.00. A score greater than 1.00 indicates that each article in the journal has above-average influence. A score less than 1.00 indicates that each article in the journal has below-average influence.


Altmetrics are non-traditional metrics proposed as an alternative to citation impact metrics.

We use a partner organisation called Altmetric to track and display the online activity around an article. Altmetric track social media sites, newspapers and magazines for mentions of each published article. The aim is to help authors quantify the attention their article is receiving and to help readers establish the articles their peers think are interesting.

The Altmetric ‘doughnut’ can be found on the ‘Details’ tab of each article.

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