Indexing databases are online digital collections of journal articles, books and related literature. They are employed by universities, libraries and research institutions to locate relevant sources and validate researchers’ output. They also help scholars identify new papers in their field and keep track of current trends within the academic world.
Indexing databases help to preserve scholarly integrity by ensuring the high-quality standards of works published. They store bibliographic information from thousands of sources which is then used to evaluate the quality of applying titles. Hence only reliable publications with accurate content are included resulting in credibility being maintained across academic disciplines.
Features for journals data analysis
Most indexing services offer research tools that help discover, access, analyze and share information effectively. Some of them provide measures for evaluating journals’ impact based on received citations. These measures are published in the form of metrics that are widely used to compare different publications within the same field or between fields and to gauge their influence in academia.
Each year Sciendo’s Abstracting & Indexing Specialists evaluate dozens of journals, checking the quality and readiness for indexing services applications. Reviewing committees invariably examine the following qualities:
- Publishing according to the stated publication schedule
- A clear description of the peer-review process
- Editorial and ethical policies available on the website
- Affiliations of authors and editors provided
- Website functionality.
Amongst the many different databases, and here both thematic and multidisciplinary, some are especially significant and prestigious, with the most stringent quality criteria to be met – Scopus, Clarivate and Medline:
- Scopus – one of the largest abstract and citation databases of peer-reviewed literature, indexing scientific journals, books and conference proceedings, and owned by Elsevier
- Clarivate – a company that provides insights and analytics to accelerate the pace of innovation being the owner of many products directed at academia:
- Web of Science database, which provides access to millions of indexed journal articles, books and proceedings
- citation indexes that provide connections between related papers;
- and Journal Citation Reports that measure publication influence.
- Medline, owned by the US National Library of Medicine, is a database that stores bibliographic information from biomedical literature from around the world.
Year to year, as global research output increases, review committees become stricter and more selective when it comes to accepting new titles for coverage. As Clarivate informs, currently fewer than 15% of journals pass their quality criteria.
For many journals, successful indexation in these services is of paramount importance. The editorial boards spend months preparing their publication to meet the specific requirements. When the moment of glory finally arrives, it is easy to forget that this is in fact not the end of the journey. Whenever the quality of published content becomes affected, a journal is flagged pending a thorough investigation.
Journal flagging and content investigation
The top scholarly databases employ different ways to ensure they host only high-standard content. After the selective application process, publications are monitored on an ongoing basis. The services check whether they continue to publish articles based on strong and sound methodology and that they maintain the ethical standards and editorial policies in force. In many cases, a top-tier technology is involved to aid the verification processes.
Dr Nandita Quaderi, Editor-in-Chief & Vice President of Web of Science, informs in her recent blog piece that Clarivate has invested in a dedicated AI tool to support the integrity of scholarly records. The tool screens the content available in the citation indexes identifying titles that no longer meet the quality criteria. At the beginning of 2023, Clarivate flagged over 500 journals and eventually delisted more than 50 of them. The investigation is still in process, so further announcements might be expected.
Scopus also monitors and periodically flags any outlier behaviour by running a special algorithm. The algorithm identifies underperforming titles and checks for characteristics such as a sudden change in output volume. Journals that no longer meet the criteria are flagged for re-evaluation.
During the investigation, new content inclusion is put on hold. If the investigation results are positive for a journal, any missing content will be ingested and continuous indexation recommenced. If the inspection result is negative, a title is removed from the service. While delisted, the content already indexed is usually preserved, however, services underline that in exceptional cases of serious unethical practice, a total retrospective removal may be performed.
Some databases inform publishers of the commencement of the investigation process, allowing them to fill in any information missing. Others perform quality verification without the involvement of publishing houses and editorial boards, believing that it is their sole responsibility to maintain the quality and to preserve scholarly integrity alone.
Scopus maintains a publicly accessible list of all discontinued journals, whereas Clarivate and Medline do not.
How to avoid having a journal removed from indexing services?
The best way to avoid having a journal removed from indexing services is to adhere to the strict publishing standards in force:
- Publishing in accordance with the official publication schedule, ethical and professional norms
- Maintaining a high level of editorial integrity
- Ensuring that published content adheres to accepted standards for accuracy, clarity and completeness
- Applying quality control measures such as plagiarism detection and conflict of interest policies
- Keeping all documents and information up to date, including publication fees, peer review policy descriptions, and other relevant matters.
If you are still uncertain what other steps you should take to ensure your journal is not removed from any indexing service, or would simply like to inquire how to apply to any of the indexing services, our Abstracting & Indexing Specialists are ready to help. Contact us by completing the form.
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