A Review of Journal Impact Metrics and Characteristics to Assist Emergency Medicine Investigators with Manuscript Submission Decisions

Author Affiliation
Robert M. Rodriguez, MD University of California, San Francisco, Department of Emergency Medicine, San Francisco, California
Virginia Chan, BS University of California, San Francisco, Department of Emergency Medicine, San Francisco, California
Angela H.K. Wong, BA University of California, San Francisco, Department of Emergency Medicine, San Francisco, California
Juan Carlos C. Montoy, MD, PhD University of California, San Francisco, Department of Emergency Medicine, San Francisco, California




A crucial, yet subjective and non-evidence-based, decision for researchers is where to submit their original research manuscripts. The approach of submitting to journals in descending order of impact factor (IF) is a common but imperfect strategy. The validity of the IF as a measure of journal quality and significance is suspect, and a number of other journal impact scores have emerged, such that no one scale is universally accepted. Furthermore, practical considerations, such as likelihood of manuscript acceptance rates and times for decisions, may influence how authors prioritize journals. In this report, we sought to 1) review emergency medicine (EM) journal impact metrics, and 2) provide a comprehensive list of pertinent journal characteristics that may influence researchers’ choice of submission.


We systematically reviewed five impact metrics (IF, H Index, CiteScore, Source-Normalized Impact per Paper, and SCImago Journal Rank) and other relevant characteristics of 20 EM journals.


We found good to excellent agreement in ordinal rankings of four of the journal impact metrics, as measured by the Spearman rank correlation coefficient. The median acceptance rate for original research manuscripts in the EM category was 25% (interquartile range [IQR] 18, 31%), and the median initial decision time was 33 days (IQR 18, 56 days). Fourteen EM journals (70%) accepted brief reports, and 15 (75%) accepted case reports/images.


We recommend replication, expansion, and formalization of this repository of information for EM investigators in a continuously updated, open-access forum sponsored by an independent organization.


With over 5200 journals currently indexed in Medline,1 investigators often a face a daunting task when choosing where to submit their original research manuscripts. The simple start with the highest impact factor (IF) and work your way down approach has considerable limitations. Many experts have questioned the validity of the IF as a measure of journal quality and influence.2,3 Furthermore, a number of other journal impact scores have emerged, such that no one scale is universally accepted as the gold standard impact metric.4,5

Beyond the limitations of relying on one or more impact metrics, researchers must consider the likelihood of acceptance, time until decision, reach of audience, and expected number of citations. Although the comments to authors after rejections may help improve subsequent submissions, reflexively submitting to high-prestige journals with low likelihood of acceptance can nevertheless waste inordinate amounts of time for decisions and effort toward serial reformatting for particular journal requirements.6-8 This futile effort can delay investigators from otherwise publishing in less prestigious journals that may be more likely to accept the manuscript, potentially rendering what may have been a timely, novel publication into a stale or redundant article and interrupting the natural evolution of using their published research as a launch point for other projects and grant proposals.

With minimal published guidelines, a common approach for junior (and other) investigators seeking assistance in manuscript submission decisions is to turn to senior academicians for advice – ironically rendering this critical step in their otherwise objective scientific work into a subjective, non-evidence based process. The single, objectively derived decision model for manuscript submissions is one proposed by Wong et al, which requires multiple inputs including journals’ manuscript acceptance rates, times for first decision, and open access fees that may not be readily available.7 With the concept of a lack of objective data to assist emergency medicine (EM) investigators with their manuscript submission decisions in mind, we sought to 1) review EM journal impact metrics, and 2) provide a comprehensive list of pertinent journal characteristics that may influence their choice of submission.


Analysis of Journal Impact Metrics

After review of the most commonly used journal impact metrics,3-5,7-12 we analyzed the following journal impact metrics: IF, H index, CiteScore, Source-Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP), and SCImago Journal Rank (SJR). See Figure 1 for descriptions of these metrics.8-15 We abstracted values for H index, SNIP, CiteScore, and SJR from websites detailing these factors11,12 and IF from the Clarivate Analytics 2018 report.16 To generate a summary ranking of EM journal impact metrics, we summed each journal’s ordinal rankings according to each of the five impact scores. In this model, the highest impact journal would have the lowest sum of ordinal ranks or the lowest mean ordinal rank.


Figure 1
Descriptions of impact metrics.

As a secondary analysis, we sought to compare the agreement of the ordinal rankings of the five IF metrics, ie, the correlation between how the individual metrics ranked journals. For this analysis, we calculated the Spearman rank correlation coefficient, rho, for each pairwise combination of metrics. We conducted these analyses using Stata v13 (StataCorp, College Station, TX) and Excel X for Mac (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA).

Submission Decision Journal Characteristics

With an explicit goal to provide practical, readily available information to inform submission decisions, we reviewed literature (including the decision model proposed by Wong et al) about pertinent journal characteristics,7 and sought to obtain the following features: manuscript acceptance rates; median times for manuscript decision; open access fees/options; and whether journals accept submissions of brief research reports/letters, and case reports/case images. For these characteristics, we first reviewed all of the individual journal official websites. Given that very few published this information, we then sent emails to the contact person(s) listed on these journal websites asking them to provide this data:


What is your acceptance rate for original research manuscripts (# accepted for publication/# submitted)?


What is your median or mean time for decisions on submitted manuscripts (how many days/weeks/months from submission to time that a decision is rendered and sent to the authors)?


We sent four follow-up emails to non-responders at 10-day intervals and a final inquiry a month after the fourth request. When journals provided vague or incomplete information, the lead investigator asked for further clarification from their editorial staff. As a review of published materials without any patient considerations, this project was categorized as exempt from institutional review board review.

Journals Reviewed

To generate the journal list, we reviewed the list of top 30 journals in the EM category on the Scimago Journal & Country Rank website (sorted by SJR rank as of May 14, 2019).11 We excluded journals with a narrow, non-EM focus, e.g., Current Heart Failure Reports, MicroRNA, and journals that did not typically publish original research manuscripts (Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America). We also excluded journals that did not have a 2017 IF on the 2018 Journal Citation Reports 2018 Clarivate Analytics report of IFs16 (the latest version available to us at the time of our analysis) and that did not respond to our queries for their 2017 IF.


Of the 30 journals listed in the EM category, we excluded eight for irrelevant or narrow focus, one for not publishing original research, and one because of no IF in 2017. We present impact factor metrics and other characteristics of the remaining 20 EM journals in Table 1. Of these 20 journals, 13 (65%) were published out of Europe and seven (35%) were published in the United States. All were English-language journals. Nearly all journals had an open access option with a median charge of $2845. Fourteen journals (70%) accepted brief reports/research letters, and 14 journals (70%) accepted case reports/case images. The median acceptance rate for original research manuscripts was 25% (interquartile range [IQR] 18, 31%) and the median initial decision time was 33 days (IQR 18, 56 days).

Table 1Emergency medicine journals’ impact factor metrics and journal characteristics (presented alphabetically; N = 20).

Journal* Country+ IF H index CS SNIP SJR Open access fee Acceptance rate (%) Decision time** (days) Brief reports? Case reports?
Acad Emerg Med US 2.612 110 2.38 1.352 1.436 $3,000 18 10 Yes No
Am J Emerg Med US 1.29 73 1.21 0.746 0.67 $2,550 27 18 Yes Yes
Ann Emerg Med US 4.68 137 1.6 1.951 1.439 $3,000 8.3 12 Yes Yes
CJEM CA 1.481 39 0.99 0.763 0.456 $3,010 32.4 60 Yes Yes
Crit Care Resusc AU 2.014 27 1.52 0.794 1.133 NR NR NR No Yes
Emerg Med Australas AU/NZ 1.353 45 0.97 0.725 0.664 $3,300 NR NR Yes Yes
Emerg Med J UK 2.046 67 1.43 1.216 0.841 £1,950 11 35 Yes Yes
Euro J Emerg Med EU 1.729 39 1.11 0.685 0.514 $2,800 12 23 Yes No
Euro J Trauma Emerg Surg DE 1.704 18 1.44 0.905 0.45 $3,140 30 44 No No
Injury NL 2.199 102 1.99 0.634 0.249 $2,500 NR 56 No Yes
Intern Emerg Med IT 2.453 36 1.49 0.709 0.713 $3,760 30 20 Yes No
J Emerg Med US 1.207 66 1.04 0.707 0.576 $2,500 23 50 Yes Yes
Prehosp Disaster Med UK 0.971 43 0.97 0.671 0.51 1 $1,760 23.2 55 No Yes
Prehosp Emerg Care UK 2.269 53 2.45 1.361 1.349 $2,950 21.5 17 Yes Yes
Resuscitation NL 5.863 117 3.86 1.944 3.183 $3,000 NR NR Yes No
Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med NO 2.312 35 2.05 1.251 0.742 $2,325 NR 41 No Yes
Shock US 3.005 92 2.6 1.031 1.354 $2,800 25 14 Yes No
West J Emerg Med US 1.68# 46 1.65 1.091 0.823 $500 31.3 75 Yes Yes
Wilderness Environ Med US 1.161 35 0.87 0.776 0.47 $3,000 38 32 Yes Yes
World J Emerg Surg UK 3.198 1.098 3.3 2.137 0.992 $2,890 40 30 No Yes

*National Library of Medicine Title Abbreviation
+Country of publication abbreviated according to the United Nations Code List
#Retrieved from Scimago Journal & Country Rank, not Clarivate (Web of Science, Science Citation Index Expanded).
IF, impact factor; CS, CiteScore; SNIP, Source Normalized Impact per Paper; SJR, Scimago Journal & Country Rank; NR, no response to queries; $, United States dollars; OA, open access.

We present the ranking of EM journals by summation of impact factor metrics in Table 2. We calculated the Spearman rank correlation coefficient for each pair of impact metrics; these metrics ranged from 0.13 to 0.82 as presented graphically in Figure 2. The H index showed the lowest agreement with other metrics, and the CiteScore index showed the highest agreement.

Table 2Summary ranking (highest to lowest) of top 20 emergency medicine journals by summation of ordinal rankings.

Journal* IF H CS SNIP SJR Average rank Median rank Range
Resuscitation 1 2 1 3 1 1.6 1 1 – 3
Ann Emerg Med 2 1 9 2 2 3.2 2 1 – 9
Acad Emerg Med 5 3 5 5 3 4.2 5 3 – 5
Shock 4 5 3 9 4 5 4 3 – 9
Prehosp Emerg Care 8 9 4 4 5 6 5 4 – 9
World J Emerg Surg 3 20 2 1 7 6.6 3 1 – 20
Emerg Med J 10 7 12 7 8 8.8 8 7 – 12
Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med 7 16 6 6 10 9 7 6 – 16
West J Emerg Med 14 10 8 8 9 9.8 9 8 – 14
Intern Emerg Med 6 15 10 16 11 11.6 11 6 – 16
Injury 9 4 7 20 20 12 9 4 – 20
Am J Emerg Med 17 6 13 14 12 12.4 13 6 – 17
Crit Care Med 11 18 19 11 6 13 11 6 – 19
Eur J Emerg Med 13 19 11 10 19 14.4 13 10 – 19
Emerg Med Australas 12 13 14 18 15 14.4 14 12 – 18
Eur J Trauma Emerg S 16 11 17 15 13 14.4 15 11 – 17
J Emerg Med 18 8 15 17 14 14.4 15 8 – 18
CJEM 15 13 16 13 18 15 15 13 – 18
Prehosp Disaster Med 20 12 17 19 16 16.8 17 12 – 20
Wilderness Environ Med 19 16 20 12 17 16.8 17 12 – 20

*National Library of Medicine Title
IF, Impact Factor; CS, CiteScore; SNIP, Source Normalized Impact per Paper; SJR, SCImago Journal Rank.


Figure 2
IF, Impact factor; CS, CiteScore; SNIP, Source Normalized Impact per Paper; SJR, SCImago Journal Rank; H, H Index.


Original research investigations are generally laborious and lengthy, often consuming years from start to finish. When considering where to submit the final product of their research for publication, investigators should be afforded as much objective, easily accessible information as possible. Toward this end, we sought to provide a comprehensive review of EM journal impact metrics and other characteristics for investigators.

We found that all but one of the impact metrics showed good to excellent agreement in their ordinal rankings, suggesting that these metrics and their formulas capture only slight nuances in impact. The poor correlation of the H index may be due to the fact that it is generally intended as a metric for authors – not journals. Although several websites provide general descriptions of these and other impact metrics, we were unable to find a similar specific analysis of journal impact metric correlation in any subspecialty field of medicine.

We are not advocating that our summary impact ranking is a general proxy of journal quality, and it should not become a de facto “one-two-three…” template for sequential targeted submission. Detailing all the factors that influence journal choices is beyond the scope of this work. The journal characteristics and the criteria for journal inclusion on these lists were chosen by a single investigator after review of the literature and consideration of the submission decision model proposed by Wong et al. EM investigators and their research are eclectic, and their publication priorities reflect this breadth of experience.17 Overall, we recommend that authors use this work to help in their high impact vs likelihood of acceptance computations for submissions. Additionally, although this review is not intended to replace careful inspection of journal websites and instructions for authors, investigators may use our tables as a shortcut to avoid having to slog through numerous websites for other basic journal characteristic information.

Although the information presented in this study is purported to be readily available, we were surprised by the difficult and time-consuming nature of the data collection process. We anticipated that we would only need to conduct simple searches over a month (or less) to gather our desired data – it took nearly five months. Although three websites provided much of the standardized journal impact metric data,11,12,16 they did not offer any of the other journal characteristics we sought to provide. We found information regarding open access options/fees and whether journals accept case reports and brief reports on most journal websites, but it was often buried and sometimes unclear.

Very few journals published information regarding acceptance rates and decision times, and only 28% of our first email inquiries to journal staff were answered. Given these difficulties, we recommend the development of an independently maintained, expanded repository that gathers this information on an ongoing basis – with our work and tables providing a template or roadmap toward this goal. Considerations of conflict of interest or bias toward their affiliated journals notwithstanding, the most logical sponsors of such an endeavor are EM professional organizations such as the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine or the American College of Emergency Physicians. Regardless of who performs this service, the most appropriate home for its output is a freely available, open access website. From a sustainability standpoint, we expect that journals would, over time, recognize the benefits of collaboration and transparency of this repository and provide the input data more freely.


While journal impact metrics are calculated by third parties in an objective, standardized fashion, the primary limitation of this report is the reliance on journal self-reports for acceptance rates and times for decisions. A few journals either did not respond to our inquiries or stated that they do not provide this information, and so this data remains incomplete. Furthermore, even though we specifically requested data regarding original research, some journals may have provided acceptance rates for all types of manuscripts. Similarly, in terms of median/mean times for decisions, their data may have been skewed if they referred to all submissions, including those that were immediately rejected and not sent out for review. Furthermore, use of the median and mean decision times without standard deviations or IQRs of the individual journals may obscure another important factor – the variation in time to decisions within a journal.6 Finally, these impact metrics and other journal characteristics are a snapshot of what was available from May–August 2019. Several journals sent us updated IFs and one EM journal that did not have a 2017 IF sent us their newly acquired 2018 IF. To maintain methodologic consistency, we chose not to include updated scores in this report.


We present summary tables of EM journal impact metrics and characteristics to inform original research manuscript submission choices for EM investigators. Considering the effort to acquire this data and annual changes in journal impact metrics, we recommend development of a centralized, open access website repository that can be updated from year to year.


Section Editor: Mark I. Langdorf, MD, MHPE

Full text available through open access at http://escholarship.org/uc/uciem_westjem

Address for Correspondence: Robert M. Rodriguez, MD, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine, 1001 Potrero Avenue, Suite 6A, San Francisco, CA 94110. Email: Robert.rodriguez@ucsf.edu. 7 / 2020; 21:877 – 882

Submission history: Revision received February 20, 2020; Submitted April 4, 2020; Accepted April 9, 2020

Conflicts of Interest: By the WestJEM article submission agreement, all authors are required to disclose all affiliations, funding sources and financial or management relationships that could be perceived as potential sources of bias. No author has professional or financial relationships with any companies that are relevant to this study. There are no conflicts of interest or sources of funding to declare.


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