The use of impact factor in the appraisal of academic librarians in Nigeria.

Author:Okoye, Michael Onuchukwu
 
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Introduction

In the past, librarians were not always categorized as faculty or academics. Presently, librarians in many universities world-wide are academics and are subjected to the same promotion criteria as their classroom colleagues. In any profession, there is always an index for some sort of ranking. In academia, one such measures used in assessment of academic performance is the impact factor, sometimes abbreviated IF. Chiejina (2006) citing Garfield, defines impact factor as an indirect bibliometric measure of the international standing of journals and the impact of articles published in them. Wikipedia (2007) defines IF as a measure of citations to science and social science journals, stating that it is a proxy for the importance of a journal to its field. Impact factor was originated by Eugene Garfield (Chiejina, 2006; Harnard, 2004; Wikipedia, 2007). Wikipedia (2007) states that Garfield is also the founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), now part of Thomson Scientific. It is a large worldwide, US-based publisher that calculates impact factor each year for those journals that it indexes, and publishes the factors and indices in Journal Citation Reports (JCR).

The present study explores the degree to which academic librarians accept the use of IF for assessing their academic performance. Its application to assessment of academic performance and reactions to it in developed and developing countries, with particular reference to Nigeria, are also articulated. There is no literature on impact factor on Nigerian universities. It is this gap that the current study addresses.

Background

A journal's IF is based on two elements, the numerator, which is the number of citations in the current year to any items published in a journal in the previous two years, and the denominator, which is the number of substantive articles (source items), published in the same two years. The IF could just as easily be based on the previous year's articles alone, which would give an even greater weight to rapidly changing fields (Shiwani, 2006: Wikipedia, 2007). IF has favourable properties and usages. It also has deficiencies that can be misused and manipulated. Manipulation can be done through a journal's editorial policies. Such policies may encourage publication of a large percentage of review articles since it is expected that these review articles could receive at least one citation each, within three years of publication, and could raise the IF of the journal. The review articles may not necessarily improve the quality of published scientific work.

Statement of the Problem

IF is used to assess the quality of journals. Recently, its use has been extended to performance appraisal of academics, including librarians. This development raises the question of whether IF should be used for appraisal of academic librarians in Nigeria.

Purpose of the Study

The study sought to discover:

* The merits of impact factor

* The demerits of impact factor

* Factors that militate against its use for academic assessment of librarians in Nigeria

* The percentage of respondents that would like to be assessed through impact factor guidelines

Research Questions

* What are the merits of impact factor?

* What are the demerits of impact factor?

* What are the factors that militate against use of impact factor for academic assessment of librarians in Nigeria?

* What percentage of respondents would like to be assessed through impact factor guidelines? Scope of the Study

The study covers 2007 to 2008. It is limited to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Enugu Campuses. The University of Nigeria is the only university in Nigeria where impact factor was introduced as a parameter for assessment of academic performance at the beginning of 2007/2008 academic year.

Significance of the Study

The result will help determine the degree of acceptance of IF as a parameter for assessment of academic librarians in Nigeria. Research facilities which are needed by academic librarians to enable them publish in IF-rated journals will be identified. The need for more funds for the pursuit of higher standards of scholarship will be indicated.

Literature Review

Use of Impact Factor in Academic Appraisals Internationally

The use of IF for qualitative assessment of journal research and researchers has generated debate. Some pro-impact factor scientists like Hook (1999), Gunn (2004), and Neuberger and Counsel (2002) believe that use of IF has great value. They assert that despite valid concerns, IF is widely used and offers the best simple tool for comparison of output. Supporting the use of IF, Shiwani (2006) urges doctors and scientists from Pakistan working in developing countries to contribute to journals with high IF.

Other scientists believe that it is not right for institutions and committees of experts, and sometimes non-experts, to use IF to evaluate individual scientific achievement for the purpose of promotion, considering its flaws. In this school of thought are Harnard (2004), Eston (2004), Dong and Mondry (2005), Romon (2004), Sosteric (n.d.), Scully...

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