technical paper

Peer Review Congress 2022

September 10, 2022

Chicago, United States

Evaluation of Editors' Abilities to Estimate Citation Potential of Research Manuscripts Submitted to The BMJ


publication metrics and performance indicators

and scientometrics


editorial and peer review process


Objective To evaluate editors’ ability to estimate the citation potential of a cohort of research submissions after publication.

Design Research manuscripts submitted to The BMJ, sent for peer review, and subsequently scheduled for discussion at an editorial meeting between August 27, 2015, and December 29, 2016, were rated independently by attending editors for citation potential prior to discussion at meetings. For each manuscript, editors indicated how many citations they thought each manuscript would generate in the year they were first published plus the first calendar year after publication, in relation to the median number of citations for a paper published in The BMJ at the time. Editors could choose from the following 4 categories: no citations; below The BMJ average number of citations (<10); around The BMJ average number of citations (10-17); and more than The BMJ average number of citations (>17). Google, PubMed, ResearchGate, institutional websites, ORCID, and trial registries were searched for subsequent journal publications using key information submitted by authors. Actual citations generated were extracted from the Web of Science (WOS) Core Collection on May 10, 2022. To ensure citation counts were complete, analysis was restricted to articles published by December 31, 2019, or not published at the time of analysis.

Results Of 530 manuscripts, 508 were published as full- length articles and indexed in the WOS and 22 were unpublished (1 abstract, 1 preprint, 1 substantially changed, 19 not found). Among the 507 manuscripts published by the end of 2019, the median (IQR range) number of citations in the year of publication plus the following year was 8 (4-16 0-150). A total of 291 manuscripts (57%) generated below The BMJ average number of citations (<10), 102 (20%) generated around The BMJ average number of citations (10-17), and 114 (23%) generated above The BMJ average number of citations (>17). The number of citations was higher for accepted manuscripts (median, 12 IQR, 7-24 citations) compared with rejected manuscripts (median, 5 IQR, 3-10.75 citations). For each of the 10 editors’ ratings, there was a tendency for actual citation counts to be higher in line with the editor’s increasing estimated citation categories but with considerable variation within categories; 9 of 10 editors were unable to identify the correct citation category for more than 50% (range, 31%-54%) of manuscripts. A κ analysis revealed that agreement between the estimated and actual categories for all editors was slight or fair (κ value range, 0.02-0.27). Table 25 shows that editors frequently rated papers that were highly cited as having low citation potential and vice versa. Secondary analysis using citations in the first 2 years after publication showed similar results.

Conclusions Many editors are motivated to publish highly citable manuscripts because this determines impact factor; however, this motivation can bias which articles get published and where they are published. This study found that The BMJ editors were not good at estimating the citation potential of manuscripts they accepted or rejected.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures Sara Schroter, Wim Weber, and Elizabeth Loder are employed by or seconded to The BMJ. Jack Wilkinson holds statistical or methodologic editor roles for Cochrane Gynaecology and Fertility, BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Reproduction and Fertility, and Fertility and Sterility. Jamie J. Kirkham is a statistical editor for The BMJ.

Acknowledgments Thanks to Nillanee Nehrujee for assistance with data collection for articles accepted to The BMJ and to The BMJ research editors for their participation.

Additional Information Jack Wilkinson is a co–corresponding author.


SlidesTranscript English (automatic)

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