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I planned to submit one of my long-developed software pieces to the prestigious journal SoftwareX. I was preparing for this for a while and making my code ready, and was just about to submit and realized its huge drop of impact factor on SJR.

It steadily built its position as a respected and leading journal, growing its impact factor close to 10 and topping the lists at SJR and Google Scholar for publishing software. And now it dropped a lot, to the level of paid open-access journals of disputable reputation.

Is there a systematic reason why this happened? Too many papers, too many poor papers, bad leadership, bad management, poor peer-review?

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    I took the liberty to remove the off-topic part of the question from the end. The answers you get hopefully help you in choosing a publication venue, but we can not choose it for you. – Tommi Aug 11 at 14:20
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    Dear @RichardErickson I think the community voted differently and found the question valuable. It is not specific to the journal, but to the ranking brought by SJR, citescore, etc. Looking at the answer we now know better how IF can be pumped by a single paper falling out of window after 3 years. The question "Where to publish?" (or as I stated "Shall I publish there?") is one of the key that you answer at academia and in future you are evaluated based on your decisions. If sth is suspisious with metrics, it's good for all the community to know the reason and be aware of it. – Intelligent-Infrastructure Aug 12 at 8:48
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    As a point of comparison, SoftwareX currently has a h5-index of 20 and h5-median of 34, while Journal of Open Source Software has a h5-index of 32 and h5-median of 60, as measured by Google Scholar. In my experience these metrics are generally more reliable than so-called impact factors. – mtall Aug 12 at 9:24
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I think this is a good example of putting too much faith in an average measure like Impact Factor or SJR when you talk about the 'reputation' of a journal.

In 2015, in its first year, SoftwareX published "Gromacs: High performance molecular simulations through multi-level parallelism from laptops to supercomputers", which was extremely highly cited - Scopus has almost 3,800 citations, more than 40 times more than the next most-cited paper in the journal. The journal is quite small, so in 2017 SoftwareX would have had a “citations per paper” of about 8 from that one paper alone.

SJR uses a three-year window, so this paper stopped contributing to their average in 2019, which is where you see the precipitous drop in rank, as it's now reflecting the 'normal' citation rate for other papers in the journal without this huge outlier.

The question you have to answer for yourself when deciding where to submit is, should you care? You said SoftwareX had built a reputation as a respected and leading journal, so if that was actually true in your field, then nothing seems to have changed apart from this one big outlier dropping out of the citation average. On the other hand, if 'reputation' was just used as shorthand for Impact/SJR, then this has indeed substantially fallen, and you'll need to decide how much that matters to you when you decide where to submit.

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    thank you for digging in. I was guessing an outlier was driving the moving average. – Richard Erickson Aug 11 at 16:22
  • @Stephen McMahon - that is a very good explanation that I was looking for. And it actually gives a broad perspective. The current reputation of the journal, measured with SJR dropped, yet it's actual potential and quality, knowing the background, did not so much. If that is the only reason for the drop, I am about to keep the faith in the journal. And the faith on th market flooded with seasonal scam journals is the key. – Intelligent-Infrastructure Aug 12 at 8:42

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