Correlation between impact factor and rejection rate: Myth or fact?


Impact factor (IF) is a measure of the reputation and health of a journal, but not the sole determinant. Therefore, authors must not consider it as a be-all, end-all yardstick or stricture while finding the right journal for their paper. The scope of a journal, its audience, and types of articles it publishes are equally, if not more, significant than the IF.

Grading the authors based on the merit of their publication portfolios is an arduous and tricky task. Several institutional committees often rank the authors based on their previous achievements for promotions, funding, and honors. In many academic circles, the IF of a journal is adopted as a parameter for assessing the quality of a published article, thereby sidestepping a comprehensive review of the article.

In scholarly publishing, a general perception among authors is that journals ranked with a high IF are highly selective and follow strict criteria for paper selection. It is also conjectured that these journals accept only those manuscripts that have extremely significant and novel outcomes, and hence more likely to attract many citations.

However, several past studies have established that there is no correlation between rejection rate and IF. These studies have cited instances of journals that have low IF and high rejection rates, which prove that IF is a poor predictor of the rejection rate and merit of a journal.

Frontiers, a leading open access publisher, plotted the IFs of 570 journals against their rejection rates and found absolutely no prime correlation between the two elements. Several studies have an alternative explanation for journals that have a high IF and a high 90-95% rejection rate. According to these studies, the high rejection rate is because the journals give precedence to prominent authors and select works that are likely to attract broad acceptance from the target audience. Consequently, many papers are rejected by them when submitted at the first go.

The way the IF is mishandled or misapplied by authors/selection committees constitutes a blemished metric in several ways. Therefore, it is important to avoid the long misconstrued notion that authors with many publications in journals that have high IFs and high rejection rates are more meritorious and bigger achievers than others who have publications in journals with medium or low IF.

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