May 18, 2022

Research Article (Preprint): “Use of the Journal Impact Factor in Academic Review, Promotion, and Tenure Evaluations”

UPDATE (April 17) The authors of the paper linked below have posted about their work in a new Peer J Blog post.


The following research article (preprint, not peer-reviewed) was recently posted by Peer J.


Use of the Journal Impact Factor in Academic Review, Promotion, and Tenure Evaluations


Erin C. McKiernan
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCuidad de México

Lesley A. Schimanski
Simon Fraser University

Carol Muñoz Nieves
Simon Fraser University

Lisa Matthias
Freie Universität Berlin

Meredith T. Niles
University of Vermont

Juan Pablo Alperin
Simon Fraser University


PeerJ Preprints 7:e27638v1
DOI: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.27638v1


The Journal Impact Factor (JIF) was originally designed to aid libraries in deciding which journals to index and purchase for their collections. Over the past few decades, however, it has become a relied upon metric used to evaluate research articles based on journal rank. Surveyed faculty often report feeling pressure to publish in journals with high JIFs and mention reliance on the JIF as one problem with current academic evaluation systems. While faculty reports are useful, information is lacking on how often and in what ways the JIF is currently used for review, promotion, and tenure (RPT). We therefore collected and analyzed RPT documents from a representative sample of 129 universities from the United States and Canada and 381 of their academic units.

Source: “Use of the Journal Impact Factor in Academic Review, Promotion, and Tenure Evaluations”; DOI:

We found that 40% of doctoral, research-intensive (R-type) institutions and 18% of master’s, or comprehensive (M-type) institutions explicitly mentioned the JIF, or closely related terms, in their RPT documents. Undergraduate, or baccalaureate (B-type) institutions did not mention it at all. A detailed reading of these documents suggests that institutions may also be using a variety of terms to indirectly refer to the JIF. Our qualitative analysis shows that 87% of the institutions that mentioned the JIF supported the metric’s use in at least one of their RPT documents, while 13% of institutions expressed caution about the JIF’s use in evaluations. None of the RPT documents we analyzed heavily criticized the JIF or prohibited its use in evaluations. Of the institutions that mentioned the JIF, 63% associated it with quality, 40% with impact, importance, or significance, and 20% with prestige, reputation, or status.

In sum, our results show that the use of the JIF is encouraged in RPT evaluations, especially at research-intensive universities, and indicates there is work to be done to improve evaluation processes to avoid the potential misuse of metrics like the JIF.

Direct to Full Text Article (Preprint)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.