The Highest-Impact, Highest-Influence Chemistry Journals

For chemists, including those convening in Atlanta for the American Chemical Society's spring meeting this month, there is no shortage of reading material. The Philadelphia-based Institute for Scientific Information catalogs some 300 chemistry journals for its Science Citation Index database. In an attempt to determine which of these publications are considered by chemists to be the most influential, The Scientist looked to SCI to identify those journals whose articles have been the most freque

Apr 1, 1991
Abigail Grissom
For chemists, including those convening in Atlanta for the American Chemical Society's spring meeting this month, there is no shortage of reading material. The Philadelphia-based Institute for Scientific Information catalogs some 300 chemistry journals for its Science Citation Index database. In an attempt to determine which of these publications are considered by chemists to be the most influential, The Scientist looked to SCI to identify those journals whose articles have been the most frequently referenced in the works of their readers over the past 10 years.

In that period, a relatively small group of journals--15 in all--has dominated the "hit parade" of top-ranked chemistry serials, according to the scientists who read them. For seven of these years, Chemical Reviews has held the first-place position, including 1989, the most recent year that these periodicals were ranked. It has alternated in the top spot with only one other journal, Accounts of Chemical Research. Table 1 lists the 15 top-ranked journals (alphabetically), along with the year each began publication.

The Scientist identified these 15 journals using the subject listings formulated by ISI to categorize the periodicals included in the SCI database. Since 1980, ISI has categorized chemistry journals in six broad areas: analytical, applied, general, inorganic and nuclear, organic, and physical. ("General" includes serials that cover several areas of chemistry that cannot be classified as one specific type.)

This article examines only those journals in the general chemistry category. Not included are serials that were originally classified in SCI as general that have since been recategorized. For example, from 1980 to 1982, ISI categorized several periodicals (Structure and Bonding, Advances in Catalysis, Progress in Surface and Membrane Science, and Journal of Molecular Catalysis) as general chemistry but later reclassified them more specifically as physical chemistry.

To identify the "hottest" chemistry periodicals of the past decade, The Scientist ranked the journals according to their annual impact factors from 1980 to 1989. "Impact" is ISI's measure of how often a journal's articles are referenced by its readers in their own work. This measure of influence is most often calculated by taking the number of citations to the articles published in a journal over a two-year period in the year immediately following those two years and dividing that figure by the number of articles published in that journal during those two years. For example, 1989 impact is calculated by dividing the number of 1989 citations a journal's 1987 and 1988 articles received by the number of papers that journal published in 1987 and 1988. The 1989 results appear in Table 2.

The two periodicals with the highest impact for all 10 years of the study are Chemical Reviews (with an impact of 9.656 in 1989) and Accounts of Chemical Research (7.419 in 1989). Chemical Reviews, as its name implies, primarily publishes articles that summarize a body of work on a particular chemical topic. Review journals are often citation standouts because researchers find it more convenient to reference one review article than to cite the 100 or more papers it discusses (The Scientist, March 5, 1990, page 20). Accounts of Chemical Research publishes reviews and also reports major advances in basic research and applications. Its high ranking should come as no surprise, since chemistry today is a dynamic field in which new discoveries quickly affect current research.

The American Chemical Society publishes both of the top-ranked serials. The society also publishes the fourth-place Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) (4.415), a biweekly that contains papers of interest to both researchers and students in all areas of chemistry. ACS is also a cosponsor, with the National Bureau of Standards, of the fifth-place Journal of Physical and Chemical Reference Data (4.408), published by the American Institute of Physics. The journal compiles critically evaluated data on physical and chemical properties.

JACS has held the fourth-place position for five of the last 10 years (1989, 1988, 1987, 1984, and 1983). In 1982 and 1980 it was a place higher (third), while in 1981 and 1986 it ranked fifth. ISI lists impact data for the Journal of Physical and Chemical Reference Data only for the years 1989 and 1988--in 1988 it held seventh place.

The Royal Society of Chemistry of Cambridge, England, is the only other professional group to contribute multiple journals to the list. It publishes the sixth-ranked Chemical Society Reviews (short for Royal Society of Chemistry Reviews) four times a year; this periodical provides in-depth coverage of state-of-the-art subjects as well as introductory reviews of new topics. Over the last 10 years it has been ranked third (1984 and <%0>1983), fourth (1985, 1982, and 1981), fifth (1987 and 1980), and sixth (1989, 1988, and 1986). The journal, it should be noted, has changed names or superseded other serials over the years, having been known as the Chemical Society, London: Quarterly Reviews and the Royal Institute of Chemistry Reviews. Its 1989 impact factor was 4.406, only a fraction lower than the fifth-place Journal of Physical and Chemical Reference Data.

The British society also produces the eighth-ranked Journal of the Chemical Society--Chemical Communications, which was previously known only as Chemical Communications. Since 1980 the periodical has held a steady position in the impact listings. It placed seventh every year from 1980 to 1986, dropping to eighth in 1987, 1988, and 1989. In the most recent year surveyed, its impact was 2.223, less than a quarter of that of the top-ranked journal, and only half that of the third-place serial, Angewandte Chemie--International Edition in English.

TOP-RANKED CHEMISTRY JOURNALS, 1980-89, AND THEIR FIRST YEAR OF PUBLICATION

 Accounts of Chemical Research 1968 Angewandte Chemie--International Edition in English 1962 Chemische Berichte 1868 Chemical Reviews  1924 Chemical Society Reviews 1972 Helvetica Chimica Acta  1918 Israel Journal of Chemistry  1951 Journal of Computational Chemistry 1980 Journal of Physical and Chemical Reference Data 1972 Journal of the American Chemical Society 1879 Journal of the Chemical Society--Chemical Communications 1965 Nouveau Journal de Chimie/New Journal of Chemistry 1977 Pure and Applied Chemistry 1960 Research on Chemical Intermediates  1978 Topics in Current Chemistry  1965 

Source: Science Citation Index, Institute for Scientific Information

Angewandte Chemie--International Edition in English had an impact factor of 5.049 in 1989. This journal has had a firm hold on third place since 1987. In 1980, the first year of the study, it ranked fourth. In 1981, it dropped to sixth. But in 1982, 1983, and 1984 it moved back up to fifth place. In 1985 it jumped to third, dropping to fourth in 1986 before reestablishing its third-place position for the next three years. This periodical publishes review articles, communications, and book reviews from all areas of chemistry.

Topics in Current Chemistry ranked seventh in impact in 1989. It is published by Springer-Verlag Inc., a company based in Heidelberg, Germany, with United States headquarters in New York. This journal, formerly called Fortschritte der Chemischen Forschung, has appeared in the top 10 every year since 1980. That year it placed sixth, with an impact of 3.667. Even though it ranked one place lower in 1989, its impact was greater--4.033. In two of the 10 years examined, Topics in Current Chemistry held the third-place slot--1986 and 1981. In 1988 and 1985 it was fifth; it placed sixth in the remaining years.

The Journal of Computational Chemistry, published by the New York-based John Wiley & Sons Inc., ranked ninth in 1989 impact (1.918). But this journal is only 11 years old, making its appearance in the top 10 for eight of the last 10 years quite impressive. (It did not appear on the list during the years of its infancy--1980 and 1981.) From 1982 to 1986, it was eighth. In 1987 it moved up one position; then, in 1988 and 1989, it settled back into ninth place. The Journal of Computational Chemistry publishes articles that concern organic, inorganic, physical, analytical, and biological chemistry, as well as quantum chemistry and molecular mechanics. Its quick acceptance by the research community indicates that this refereed periodical fills a real need in the libraries of chemists.

TOP 10 CHEMISTRY JOURNALS RANKED BY 1989 IMPACT FACTOR

 Chemical Reviews 9.656 Accounts of Chemical Research 7.419 Angewandte Chemie--International Edition in English 5.049 Journal of the American Chemical Society 4.415 Journal of Physical and Chemical Reference Data 4.408 Chemical Society Reviews 4.406 Topics in Current Chemistry 4.033 Journal of the Chemical Society-- Chemical Communications 2.223 Journal of Computational Chemistry 1.918 Research on Chemical Intermediates 1.882 

Source: Science Citation Index, Institute for Scientific Information

The second youngest journal of the 15 surveyed here is ranked 10th in 1989 impact (1.882). Research on Chemical Intermediates (known as Reviews of Chemical Intermediates until 1989) publishes brief review papers reporting recent progress and conceptual developments related to the properties, structure, and reactivities of chemical intermediates. Of the 10 years The Scientist examined, 1989 is the only year this journal appeared in the top 10 rankings.

Conversely, five serials did not make the top 10 in 1989, but did show up in these listings for previous years. These include the New Journal of Chemistry, a publication of the Paris-based Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique that started in 1977 as Nouveau Journal de Chimie, changing titles in 1987. The journal publishes articles in English, French, and German and summarizes them in English and French. It made it to the top 10 three times in the last decade--in 1980 and 1981 it ranked eighth, and in 1982 it was ninth.

Pure and Applied Chemistry, an interdisciplinary periodical representing all areas of chemistry, did not place in the top 10 in 1989,201988, and 1980. This monthly offering of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, based in Oxford, England, is published by Blackwell Scientific Publications of Oxford. Its articles appear in English, French, and German. From 1981 to 1987 the journal ranked ninth, except in 1982, when it held the 10th spot.

The Israel Journal of Chemistry appeared in the top 10 only once over the last decade. A quarterly, it is published in English by the Weizmann Science Press of Israel. Each issue is devoted to one chemical topic of current interest. The journal's sole showing was in 1985, when it ranked 10th. However, when the listing is extended to include the top 20 periodicals, the Israel Journal of Chemistry appears consistently from 1980 to 1984. Only after 1985, its peak year, does it drop below the top 20.

Chemische Berichte and Helvetica Chimica Acta appear in the top 10 three and five times, respectively, frequently just missing inclusion in the remaining years. These two serials appear to be in stiff competition with each other; their rankings are close together, often alternating, for each year considered in this article. Chemische Berichte publishes articles in English and German that detail the latest experimental and theoretical work in all fields of chemistry, while Helvetica Chimica Acta includes papers in English, German, French, and Italian that concern physical, organic, and biological chemistry.

Abigail Grissom is a freelance science writer based in Drexel Hill, Pa.