Mendeley Seeks to Speed Up Academic Impact Factor

By Andrew James , written on August 6, 2012

From The News Desk

Research site Mendeley has launched a new dashboard that allows academics to monitor and track journal data on the site in real-time. Effectively, it gives users a way to see what journals or research is being read and cited. And while this may not seem that significant to the average non-academic user, it has the potential to increase the speed of research trends by up to three to five years, without stepping on the toes of academic journals, something that other digital properties are also trying to tackle.

“What Mendeley is creating is a more democratic, more immediate form of influence measurement that allows academics and Open Access journals to demonstrate their impact on the research community right now," says Mendeley co-founder and CEO, Victor Henning.

There’s been a significant amount of complaints and efforts to speed up the pace of academic acceptance in recent years. The biggest drawback has been journal publishers and the antiquated methods used for measuring the importance of a journal or article using Impact Factor, a measurement conducted by Thomson Reuters. Traditionally, Impact Factor is measured by calculating the amount of times other academic publications cite a journal during the two preceding years from its current measure. It basically boils down to the amount of importance a researcher receives from his peers and potential sources of funding – usually something that takes years to accomplish.

“Particularly Open Access journals suffer from the delay of the Impact Factor. It often takes years for them to be added to Thomson Reuters' index, if they are being added at all,” mentions Henning.

And while journal editors may change their publishing style to gain more citations, thus upping their research cred, publishers are in no rush to change the way they do the calculations. Impact Factor gives them a way to maintain their $25 billion industry – a market with 30-40 percent profit margins -- by doling out and controlling influence.

By moving this citation calculation to real-time readership, it dramatically speeds up the time for a researcher’s article to achieve a significant impact factor compared to the old way, such that Henning says it “creates a chicken-and-egg problem: Without an Impact Factor, it is difficult to attract the best authors – and without those, you will not manage to accumulate a decent Impact Factor."

Mendeley has also signed on some big name university and research institutes to be among the first adopters, including; The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, University of Nevada - Reno, University of Pittsburgh, University of Western Ontario, and several others including the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Research Council of Japan.