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Journal indexation: why does it matter?

17 December 2020 | 5 min read

By Geraldine Lovell


How being alert to indexing guidelines can drive authors to your journal

As editor, you will be keen to ensure that your journal is as visible as possible to attract authors and ensure sufficient article submissions. At the same time, having the journal indexed in a variety of well known, reputable A&I services is a good sign of the quality of the journal. Many authors will ask for this information (some of them might well be limited to publishing only in titles which are covered by certain indexes; being included in these lists then becomes a “must have” rather than merely a “nice to have”).

At Elsevier, we have a dedicated indexation team which works closely with Publishers and editors to ensure that your journal reaches maximum visibility in the fastest possible time. The team manages this by auditing the journal online at a very early stage, looking for any areas that might need fixing before an application can be submitted to the indexation services. One of the most typical problem areas that we see are incomplete editorial board listings on the journal home page. Indexation services expect to see full names (given and surname) plus academic credentials/degrees. Next to that, affiliation details and city/country should be listed. Top indexation services such as Medline and PubMed Central also like to see areas of expertise outlined. This helps the reviewer to build a good picture of the editorial board when evaluating your journal.

The main focus of the Indexation Team is on the indexes MEDLINE, PubMed Central, Web of Science, Scopus and DOAJ. The majority of the team’s work is about ensuring that certain basic publishing standards are met, such as:

  • Fully completed registration of ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) at

  • Publishing schedule available online and adhered to

  • Conflict of interest statements published for all articles online

  • Transparent Editorial Board information provided: full editorial details given, plus latest affiliation

  • Information published in the guide for authors on peer review, copyrights, ethical statements and other areas of interest

If all basic requirements are met, the Indexation Team will look into the specific requirements of the indexation service and ensure that these are also met. For young journals, this may typically involve checking all articles published to date include conflict of interest and ethical statements, whether an appeal process for rejected articles is published online and whether  the articles have structured abstracts.

These journal audits typically involve direct communication with the Publisher, but editor involvement might also be needed to gather Board member details, discuss which ethical statements are required in the guide for authors as well as assisting to resolve cases where indexation services alert us to articles that may have been published without the correct ethical statements. Publishers rely on the expertise of the editors to decide on the correct course of action in these cases.

The main indexation services


DOAJopens in new tab/window – Directory of Open Access Journals – is an independent organization that publishes a freely available, community-curated online directory, indexing high quality, peer-reviewed gold open access (OA) journals. Article-level metadata is published with a link to the full-text on the publisher’s website. Acceptance on DOAJ gives early visibility to journals online.

Web of Science

Web of Scienceopens in new tab/window is an index that provides subscription-based access to multiple databases which provide citation data for many different academic disciplines and is the home of the Impact Factor (IF). Journals will typically start their journey on Web of Science in ESCI (Emerging Sources Citation Index). If the citation level is high enough, the journal may be evaluated for inclusion in an IF index. Elsevier can apply for inclusion on Web of Science once 20 research/review articles have been published.


Scopusopens in new tab/window is Elsevier’s abstract and citation database and home to CiteScore. Publications in the four years up to and including the calculation year are now included in CiteScore meaning that the metric  can be calculated for journals with just a single year of publication, giving new journals – including many open access and China-focused journals – a first indication of their citation impact at an early stage. We apply for inclusion in Scopus after a journal has been publishing for one year and can demonstrate that the journal is receiving citations.

PubMed Central

PubMed Centralopens in new tab/window (PMC) is a full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journals, hosted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM). NIH carry out a stringent review process and journals are accepted or rejected based on their internal quality criteria. It pays to ensure that a journal is free of any quality problems (e.g. typos, poor quality English, insufficient detail in the materials/methods section ) before applying as, if rejected, a two-year embargo follows.


MEDLINEopens in new tab/window is a bibliographic database of life sciences and biomedical articles, hosted by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). MEDLINE is the hardest index to get included in and only 12% of journals industry-wide are accepted on a yearly basis. Their quality standards are extremely high. Journal applications are reviewed three times per year and if a journal is rejected, a two-year embargo follows.

Ensuring that journal articles are included in the top indexes greatly improves their discoverability and status, provides journals with the opportunity to gain higher impact in the community and is of great benefit to the researchers that publish in them. The indexation process takes time but is well worth the effort it takes to apply and be accepted for the relevant indexes. The indexation team is happy to answer any queries or suggestions you may have. Please feel free to contact us at  [email protected]opens in new tab/window – we look forward to hearing from you!


Geraldine Lovell


Geraldine Lovell