Visual metrics on journal websites increase transparency

Metrics and graphics give insight into performance of Elsevier journals

With so much competition for good papers, editors can find it tough to make their journal stand out from the crowd.

Equally, authors can struggle to find the best home for their research and we know that a desire for more clarity around journal performance is high on their wish lists.

The new Journal Insights project aims to satisfy both these needs.

How does it work?

The journal homepage of each participating journal will contain a new section called Journal Insights. Authors clicking on this link will arrive at a landing page where they can select data visualizations of three key groups of metrics, developed to aid their decision making. About 150 journal home pages already host the metrics, with more joining the project daily.

Metric group 1 — quality

Authors can choose between graphs displaying the Impact Factor, five-year Impact Factor, Article Influence and Eigenfactor, SNIP and SJR. Each graphic is accompanied by a definition of the metric and relevant supporting data. This range of measures gives authors a broad view of journal performance and reflects the ideals outlined in San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) released at the end of May. You can read more about the declaration in a recent article on this site.

A visualization of the 2007-2011 Source-Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) for the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry

A visualization of the 2007-2011 Source-Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) for the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry

Metric group 2 — speed

Authors can discover the average review speed for the journal over a five-year period. They can also choose to view the online article publication time (also known as production speed), which covers three key steps:

  • From manuscript acceptance to the first appearance of the article online
  • From manuscript acceptance to the corrected proof online
  • From manuscript acceptance to the final appearance online of the fully paginated article

This data will not be available for those journals not using the Elsevier Editorial System (EES), our system for managing the editorial process.

Online article publication time

A visualization of the changes in speed of publication for the journal Global Environmental Change between 2007 and 2011

Metrics group 3 — authors

A detailed world map allows viewers to swiftly identify the geographical distribution of (corresponding) authors who have published in the journal within the past five years.

A visualization of the geographical location of corresponding authors whose papers have been published in the journal<em> <a href="">Forest Ecology and Management</a>   </em>  over the past five years. 

A visualization of the geographical location of corresponding authors whose papers have been published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management over the past five years.

Data sources for the visualizations include ThomsonReuters (ISI), Scopus, EES and a number of internal Elsevier systems.

Hans Zijlstra

Hans Zijlstra, Marketing Project Manager, is leading the Elsevier team behind the project. He explained: “About a year ago, we got together to think about how we could help our authors make a more balanced selection of journals for their papers. Our aim was to provide them with more insight.

“For example, in the case of quality, everyone knows and uses the Impact Factor but there are other metrics that can help to assess the journal’s performance. This initiative makes it easy to view the Eigenfactor, SNIP and SJR with just a click of the mouse.”[note color="#f1f9fc" position="right" width=400 margin=10 align="alignright"]

An early adopter

Dr. Michael Kersten, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Applied Geochemistry (AG), was an early adopter of the metrics. He said he finds the world map particularly helpful. He explained:

AG is also affiliated (with) the International Association of GeoChemistry (IAGC). The metrics presenting the geographical distribution of corresponding authors is an unequivocal evidence for functioning of one of the main missions of IAGC which is to foster global communication in geochemistry across the international scientific community.

However, in Dr. Kersten’s experience, there is also a strong bias between the distribution of authors who have succeeded in publishing their papers and all those who have papers submitted. He believes the metrics may help him analyze and discuss this mismatch.[/note]

The team looked at a number of options for presenting the three groups of metrics but decided that a clean and simple graphical presentation would provide the strongest impact.

Zijlstra explained: “While we were impressed by some of the information other publishers are providing, it can take some time to work your way through it all. We hope we’ve found a balance between providing comprehensive data and keeping it accessible for a broad audience.”

According to Zijlstra, the advantages of featuring the metrics on journal homepages are numerous and include:

  • Providing more transparency for authors
  • Strengthening a journal’s reputation
  • Attracting more high-quality submissions

Journals can pick and choose which metrics are shown and a variety of combinations are possible. An added bonus is that the visualizations have been built using mobile device-friendly software.

The next step will be to gather feedback from the editors and authors involved in the project to further improve the visualizations. Hans and his colleagues are already busy exploring the potential of additional developments to enrich the data sets and visualizations.

Zijlstra added: “Our hope is that these metrics will be featured on at least 50% of our journals’ homepages by mid-August.

” If you have any thoughts on the project you would like to share, you can contact Hans Zijlstra at — or simply post your comments below.[note color="#f1f9fc" position="center" width=800 margin=10]

Journals in pilot

About 150 Elsevier journals now display the metrics, with more being added every day. The journals that took part in the Journal Insights pilot were:

A version of this article appeared in Editors’ Update.[divider] Linda Willems

The Author

As Academic Content & Communications Manager for Elsevier, Linda Willems oversees the Editors’ Update website, a resource center designed to keep editors in touch with the latest developments in journal publishing, policies and initiatives. The site also hosts the quarterly Editors’ Update newsletter, for which she is Editor-in-Chief. Willems, who is based in Amsterdam, is also on the team behind the Elsevier Journal Editors’ Conferences program.

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