Q: The journal IF has changed between online and print publication: Which one should I consider?
Scenario 1: My paper was published online in 2013 when the journal IF was 1. When my paper was published in print in 2014, the journal IF became 0.5. Will my paper be considered published in a 0.5 or 1 IF journal? Scenario 2: My paper was accepted in 2013, and the journal IF was 1 at that time. But when my paper was published online (in 2014), the IF becomes 0.5. After a year, my paper was published in print, and the IF was 0.25. Will my paper be considered published in a 1 or 0.25 IF journal?
I assume you are referring to your paper being published online by a journal that has an advance online publication (AOP) option. In most cases, manuscripts published AOP are the final versions, and there are no changes in the print version. If this is the case, a manuscript can be considered published in the year of its online publication, even if the print version is published the next year.
So, in the first scenario that you have described, your paper will be considered published AOP in 2013, but in the second scenario, your paper will be considered published AOP only in 2014, (as 2013 is the year of acceptance, not publication).
Now let us come to the Impact Factor (IF). When someone reads your paper, they will generally not consider the IF of the journal it was published in. They will probably check whether it was published in a reputed journal. Even if they want to know the journal’s IF, they will just go to the journal’s website and check the current IF of the journal. In that case, it will not really matter what the IF of the journal was at the time of publication of your article; what will matter is the IF of the journal at the time when the reader is reading your paper.
If you intend to mention the IF of the journal in your CV, it is best to mention the IF of the online and the print versions separately, along with the publication date of each.
If you wish to know which version of your article will be considered by Thomson Reuters for calculation of the journal IF, here is an excellent explanation in a recent article published by the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE).
“Many journals today publish online-early articles, with the article posted online as soon as the copyedited and typeset version is ready (or, for some journals, as soon as the article is accepted) and then included later as part of an issue. The article can be cited as soon as it is published online. But what if the article is published online-early in one year and again as part of an issue, either online or in print, in the following year? How does that affect the IF calculation?
James Testa explained (personal communication) that Thomson Reuters prefers the simplicity that occurs when an article is published online-early and within an issue in the same year. However, when that does not happen, the date that Thomson Reuters counts in the numerator of the IF calculation (the number of citations) is whichever date the citing authors have used in their reference list. For example, if article X was published online-early in December 2013 and is published in that journal’s January 2014 issue, and if article Y cites the 2013 online-early publication in their reference list, that is the date Thomson Reuters will count. If article Y cites the 2014 article from the January issue, Thomson Reuters will add the citation to the 2014 number.”
Thus, for all practical purposes, the journal IF at the time your paper was published is not important. Every time Thomson Reuters updates the IF, the journal will be considered with its new IF.
This article was modified on 17.08.2015 to include additional information.