27 No. 2
and Applied Chemistry: Citation Highlights 1998 - 2003
by James R. Bull and Bohumir Valter
The publication policy of Pure and Applied Chemistry (PAC) has undergone significant changes in the years that have followed the decision to resume self-publication. The scope of conference coverage has broadened in response to the increasing number of international events enjoying IUPAC sponsorship. Special Topic features and issues appear regularly,1 offering in-depth coverage of topical themes and identifying IUPAC with new and emerging areas of pure and applied chemistry. Reports and Recommendations arising from IUPAC projects continue to form part of the journal’s core, and occupy about 30% of the annual average of about 2 400 pages.
The most recent changes affecting PAC have their origins in the deliberations of the Conference Policy Development Committee, which met in 2001 and 2002 in order to review and refine policy for granting IUPAC sponsorship and managing attendant publication options. It was recognized that internationally representative and well-established series in the conference calendar are entitled to a preferential claim on publication coverage in PAC. These conferences, together with occasional or start-up events on innovative and forward-looking themes, were identified as the strategically vital elements in an evolving publication policy.
As a result of these deliberations a scientific editor was appointed in 2003 to implement an appropriate publication policy2 and to oversee peer review of manuscripts emanating from conference presentations. Peer review was formerly a discretionary option available to conference organizers, but general and equitable imposition of this important practice is expected to impact favorably on overall editorial standards. How can these standards be measured in the future, and how can progress toward strategic objectives be evaluated? A starting point is obviously to measure recent performance, and to use that as a yardstick against which to monitor progress toward improved performance.
The impact factor3 (i.e., the ratio of total citation hits for papers published during the preceding two years to the total number of citable works) has been widely used as a yardstick for comparative evaluation of scientific publications for nearly 40 years and, however controversial, continues to play a pivotal role in the acquisition policies of many science libraries. It is therefore important to understand this index of performance and to learn from it, if PAC is to prosper in the competitive arena of scientific publication. In the absence of other objective criteria, citation data provide us with at least one standard by which to monitor our performance and identify strengths and weaknesses.
Furthermore, most readers and prospective authors are aware of citation credentials when considering what to read and where to publish. We may thus conclude that we ignore citation data at our peril, even if we are skeptical about their absolute worth in isolation. The impact factor for PAC during recent years tells us that the journal is operating fairly consistently (1998: 1.677; 1999: 1.141; 2000: 1.257; 2001: 1.535; 2002: 1.750; and 2003: 1.471), although at a lower level than leading research and review media in general chemistry. With such impact factors, PAC was ranked thirty-fifth out of 123 journals in the ISI category “chemistry multidisciplinary” in 2003, a fairly typical ranking throughout this review period.
How meaningful are these data for comparative evaluation of PAC? In reality, the publication policy of PAC differs distinctively from the policies of many comparable review media, and has evolved largely as an instrument of service to the international community. For example, Reports and Recommendations arising from IUPAC projects are not normally assessed by citation criteria, and previous publication guidelines to organizers of IUPAC-sponsored events conveyed an implied commitment to publish outputs irrespective of their citation potential. Although this concept of service remains inviolate in the changing policy, it is hoped that more rigorous evaluation of events and their publishable outputs will ensure that future coverage is devoted increasingly to the most successful international events having the greatest citation potential.
Accordingly, a more in-depth analysis of the historical performance of discrete events and features was undertaken in search of guidelines for future strategic planning. We elected to extract a data set comprising total citation hits from publication date to 30 April 2004 for all works published in PAC during the period 1998–2003. A comprehensive report based upon these data was presented to the IUPAC Committee for Printed and Electronic Publications in July 2004, and will be used for planning and evaluation purposes. Publication of the unabridged report is beyond the scope of this article, but it seems timely and appropriate to publicize some of the more notable highlights of this period. It should be emphasized that these data are unrelated to the impact factor, since they allude to absolute and cumulative numbers of citations for papers and events covered in a given year, and are most useful for ranking purposes within that year.
The ensuing sections report the most highly cited events, individual authors, and reports and recommendations featured in PAC during the period 1998 to 2003. Of course, we cannot compare the older sources directly with the more recent, but we may assume that citation rates generally start to taper off after perhaps five years. Data sets for 1998 and 1999, therefore, offer a quite reliable approximation of the total citation potential of a paper or group of papers, and a measure by which they can be compared. Data sets for more recent years are necessarily incomplete by comparison, and those for 2003 will inevitably be biased in favor of coverage in the earlier issues of the year. Nevertheless, more recent data sets do hint at citation trends and future potential.
Most Highly Cited Conference Collections
The five most highly cited conferences and Special Topic features are listed for each year of the survey period in table 1. These data reveal that all three Special Topics issues in 1998 and 2000 led the total citation tally, whilst the issue devoted to “Green Chemistry” included the most highly cited PAC paper of recent years, as well as an exceptional citations per paper score. The early trends for subsequent Special Topic issues are generally encouraging. It is worth noting that “Environmental Oestrogens” and “Green Chemistry” arose out of divisional initiatives and major international and interdisciplinary collaboration. The “Advanced Materials” series was also initiated through individual and divisional effort and cooperation, and exemplifies the opportunities for promoting and regularizing new and emerging science themes as part of IUPAC’s core program.
The most consistently successful conference series is “Organometallic Chemistry Directed Towards Organic Synthesis.” All three of these conferences covered during the review period were among the most highly cited. The 10th Conference has achieved a record citation score as well as the unprecedented average of 19.4 citations per paper!
For the rest, there are no immediately obvious general trends in the listings, but encouraging indications that any of the established core series in the IUPAC calendar has potential to feature widespread interest. Credit is due to the relevant organizers for their essential roles in achieving this measure of success, and an enviable place in the archival record of PAC. At the same time, it is hoped that the absence of certain series from these listings will serve to challenge organizers of future events, to compile scientific programs with the potential to generate highly citable works.
Most Highly Cited Papers
Citation records of individual papers are clearly less useful for planning purposes than those of events. However, the list in table 2 identifies some of the component parts of notable successes, and recognizes those authors whose papers have contributed significantly to the overall impact of the journal.
Most Highly Cited Reports and Recommendations
Reports and Recommendations are stand-alone features, and cannot readily be compared with event collections or with individual papers, since they form part of the Union’s perceived service-driven activity to the international community, sometimes targeting readers whose primary business may be to utilize the data without citation. Nevertheless, a high level of citation certainly demonstrates that the publishing scientific community has taken note of particular Reports or Recommendations. Some of the works in this category have attracted a great deal of interest. This level of attention is amongst the highest expressions of achievement for IUPAC project activities.
The record of recent years offers encouraging evidence that PAC does perform a distinctive service in the review literature, and that all the component features have potential to contribute toward a high citation profile. The challenge is to learn from the achievements highlighted here, and to use them as planning instruments to refine content selection and evaluation. The changing policies governing publication in PAC are intended to facilitate this process, and to ensure that the journal continues to occupy a secure and indispensable place in the contemporary chemistry literature.
1. For easy access to PAC Special Topics, see <www.iupac.org/publications/pac>
2. PAC Publication Policy: www.iupac.org/publications/
pac/policy.html; “New Look at Special Topics and an Evolving Policy for Pure and Applied Chemistry” Sep-Oct 2003 CI, p. 10; <www.iupac.org/publications/ci/2003/2505/4_bull.htm>
3. Thompson ISI Journal Citations Report <www.isinet.com>
James R. Bull <email@example.com> is a professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and scientific editor of PAC. Bohumir Valter is editorial manager of the Collection of Czechoslovak Chemical Communications and a member of the IUPAC Committee on Printed and Electronic Publication.
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