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Does Success Breed Success? A Study on the Correlation between Impact Factor and Quantity in Chinese Academic Journals

Kun Chen1, Xian-tong Ren2,3, Guo-liang Yang2,3†, Ailifeire Abudouguli1   

  1. 1School of Politics and Public Administration, Xinjiang University, Urumqi, 830046, China;
    2Institute of Science and Development, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100190, China;
    3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China
  • Received:2020-11-25 Revised:2021-01-26 Accepted:2021-07-23
  • Contact: †Guo-liang Yang (E-mail: glyang@casipm.ac.cn).

Abstract: Purpose: This paper studies the relationship between the impact factor (IF) and the number of journal papers in Chinese publishing system.
Design/methodology/approach: The method proposed by Huang (2016) is used whereas to analysis the data of Chinese journals in this study.
Findings: Based on the analysis, we find the following. (1) The average impact factor (AIF) of journals in all disciplines maintained a growth trend from 2007 to 2017. Whether before or after removing outlier journals that may garner publication fees, the IF and its growth rate for most social sciences disciplines are larger than those of most natural sciences disciplines, and the number of journal papers on social sciences disciplines decreased while that of natural sciences disciplines increased from 2007 to 2017. (2) The removal of outlier journals has a greater impact on the relationship between the IF and the number of journal papers in some disciplines such as Geosciences because there may be journals that publish many papers to garner publication fees. (3) The success-breeds-success (SBS) principle is applicable in Chinese journals on natural sciences disciplines but not in Chinese journals on social sciences disciplines, and the relationship is the reverse of the SBS principle in Economics and Education & Educational Research. (4) Based on interviews and surveys, the difference in the relationship between the IF and the number of journal papers for Chinese natural sciences disciplines and Chinese social sciences disciplines may be due to the influence of the international publishing system. Chinese natural sciences journals are losing their academic power while Chinese social sciences journals that are less influenced by the international publishing system are in fierce competition.
Research limitation: More implications could be found if long-term tracking and comparing the international publishing system with Chinese publishing system are taken.
Practical implications: It is suggested that researchers from different countries study natural science and social sciences journals in their languages and observe the influence of the international publishing system.
Originality/value: This paper presents an overview of the relationship between IF and the number of journal papers in Chinese publishing system from 2007 to 2017, provides insights into the relationship in different disciplines in Chinese publishing system, and points out the similarities and differences between Chinese publishing system and international publishing system.

Key words: Impact factor (IF), Chinese academic journals, Correlation analysis, the Number of journal papers