Mathematical method ranks scientific journals

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Researchers from Northwestern University, USA have developed a mathematical method to rank scientific journals according to their quality. The research is expected to help scientists locate high-impact research papers to read and to cite in their own papers.

In an article in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, the team reported the analysis of citation data from nearly 23 million papers in 2,267 journals. This data, for papers published between 1955 and 2006 in 200 academic fields, was analysed to give 200 separate tables of journal rankings by field.

The researchers, led by Luís A. Nunes Amaral, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, discovered that the timescale for a published paper’s complete accumulation of citations - a gauge for determining the full impact of the paper - can range from less than one year to 26 years, depending on the journal. Using their new method, the researchers can estimate the total number of citations a paper will get in the future and so determine the paper’s likely impact in its field.