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Elife. 2019 Jul 31;8. pii: e47338. doi: 10.7554/eLife.47338.

Use of the Journal Impact Factor in academic review, promotion, and tenure evaluations.

Author information

Departamento de Física, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico.
Scholarly Communications Lab, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.
John F Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Vermont, Burlington, United States.
School of Publishing, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.
Contributed equally


We analyzed how often and in what ways the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) is currently used in review, promotion, and tenure (RPT) documents of a representative sample of universities from the United States and Canada. 40% of research-intensive institutions and 18% of master's institutions mentioned the JIF, or closely related terms. Of the institutions that mentioned the JIF, 87% supported its use in at least one of their RPT documents, 13% expressed caution about its use, and none heavily criticized it or prohibited its use. Furthermore, 63% of institutions that mentioned the JIF associated the metric with quality, 40% with impact, importance, or significance, and 20% with prestige, reputation, or status. We conclude that use of the JIF is encouraged in RPT evaluations, especially at research-intensive universities, and that there is work to be done to avoid the potential misuse of metrics like the JIF.


academic careers; computational biology; higher education; impact factor; institutional policy; none; scholarly communications; systems biology

Conflict of interest statement

EM is a member of the DORA Steering Committee and an advisor for the Metrics Toolkit, both volunteer positions. LS, CM, LM, MN, JA No competing interests declared

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