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PLOS ONE  2013 

Effects of Print Publication Lag in Dual Format Journals on Scientometric Indicators

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059877

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Background Publication lag between manuscript submission and its final publication is considered as an important factor affecting the decision to submit, the timeliness of presented data, and the scientometric measures of the particular journal. Dual-format peer-reviewed journals (publishing both print and online editions of their content) adopted a broadly accepted strategy to shorten the publication lag: to publish the accepted manuscripts online ahead of their print editions, which may follow days, but also years later. Effects of this widespread habit on the immediacy index (average number of times an article is cited in the year it is published) calculation were never analyzed. Methodology/Principal Findings Scopus database (which contains nearly up-to-date documents in press, but does not reveal citations by these documents until they are finalized) was searched for the journals with the highest total counts of articles in press, or highest counts of articles in press appearing online in 2010–2011. Number of citations received by the articles in press available online was found to be nearly equal to citations received within the year when the document was assigned to a journal issue. Thus, online publication of in press articles affects severely the calculation of immediacy index of their source titles, and disadvantages online-only and print-only journals when evaluating them according to the immediacy index and probably also according to the impact factor and similar measures. Conclusions/Significance Caution should be taken when evaluating dual-format journals supporting long publication lag. Further research should answer the question, on whether the immediacy index should be replaced by an indicator based on the date of first publication (online or in print, whichever comes first) to eliminate the problems analyzed in this report. Information value of immediacy index is further questioned by very high ratio of authors’ self-citations among the citation window used for its calculation.


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