When producing a list of publication for a CV, it is sometimes useful to append the impact factor of the journal in which each publication was published.

The question is: should one use the impact factor of the year in which the paper was published, or the most recent one? For example: I published one paper in 2018 in the Journal "A"; should I use the 2018 IF, or the most recent?

I know there are good reasons behind both choices, but I was looking for some more "definitive" guidance. Thanks to everyone.

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    I'd think that you should ask some more-senior people whether it's really of any conceivable benefit to include any sort of "impact factor" stuff... As in some other comments/answers, to me, any CV that included that sort of thing (I'm in math, in the U.S., at an R1) would be a loud indicator of cluelessness. (And, no, I'd have no idea what the numbers might or might not suggest/claim... so there'd be no scenario in which I thought something was positive). With regard to hiring, I look at the actual work, and form my own opinions. Jul 5, 2021 at 1:01

3 Answers 3


While not universal this is actually a pretty acceptable practice in some fields, especially in the life sciences, where there are may subfields and your hiring committee may not be familiar with reputable journals in your field. I think it’s okay to include them.

This is actually an interesting and thought provoking question as impact factor for a journal does change over time. Personally, if relevant I’d use the most recent impact factor (usually for the last 5 years). My justification for this is 2 reasons: a) citations are cumulative over time b) this is what journals tend to use to reflect their current reputation. The citation from the 5 years before your publication may have informed your decision at the time but aren’t that relevant anymore as journal reputation can change and the 5 years preceding your publication didn’t include citations to your work.

It’s also worth noting that impact factor is not an ideal metric. While it is heavily used for hiring and promotion decisions and that should be acknowledged. It wasn’t its original purpose, the metric was designed not to measure quality of the work involved but for libraries to decide which journals are the most popular or important to subscribe to on a limited budget. This is inherently biased towards older established journals, controversial or hot topics, larger subfields, and review articles. It is also difficult to generalise as quality of research published within the same journal can vary widely, as can citations, and they’re not necessarily the same either. Journals newer than 5 years old cannot have an impact factor by definition. Some open access journals such as The Journal of Open Source Software have decided not to have one as it goes against the journal ethos.

  • Thank you. This seems the most appropriate and complete answer to my question so far.
    – pankevedmo
    Jul 6, 2021 at 14:27

It is NOT common practice to include impact factors on a CV. Indeed, if anyone sent me a CV with impact factors, I would immediately question their competence.

If you are in some specialized situation where they are required, then you should inquire of the people requiring them.

  • It largely depends on the field (IFs are weighted more in some fields than in others), and in certain situations is useful to have a rough outlook of the impact of the research produced. So yes, maybe is not common practice, but it may be useful.
    – pankevedmo
    Jul 4, 2021 at 19:22
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    If the readers of your paper or CV don't already know which journals in your field are important then you are in trouble already. And, do you suggest you might have to recalculate IF for all your papers every year to update your CV? How about sending it out again to anyone who might have seen an old version?
    – Buffy
    Jul 4, 2021 at 19:36
  • In some places is is extremely common for competent people to list impact factors in CVs. That said, you should still question people's competence when they do it. Jul 5, 2021 at 0:28

The correct use of impact factors is not to use them. But if you are going to use them anyway, normal practice is to use the most recent available impact factor.

You might object that the impact factor at the time of publication is more relevant. That is correct. But people use the most recent impact factors because they are usually higher and easier to find.

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