Lit Research: Research Journals and Conferences

There are a lot of academic/research conferences and journals out there. How do you pick one from such a large pool of good options? I’m glad that you asked because I’ve recently learned A LOT about the business of journal citations and its impact on research publications and conference selection processes. In short, citations are the new “currency” that fuels the academic research community. Not too unlike “likes” in social media, citations are a visual “applause” that tells the world how “important” your research is within your circle of researchers.

I used the term “business” deliberately. If you look at the “Metrics” tab for an IEEE citation, you’ll see three subsections — Usage, Citations and Online Sharing Activity. This type of quantitative citation and web analytics data was originally intended to inform the author(s) of the extent to which a research paper has been reviewed and/or referenced. That volume of citation information has now evolved to be used for so much more. In fact, research conferences and journals have helped build this growing repository of citation data into a profitable industry.

Fig. 1 – Snapshot of the citation metrics for a highly-cited article (source: IEEExplore)


Impact factor is a “measure reflecting the yearly average number of citations to recent articles published in that journal” (source: Wikipedia). This number is often used to determine the relative importance of an academic journal. One may assume that journals with a high impact factor will be more difficult to get a paper accepted for publication than ones with a low impact factor. This metric is largely based on the ratio of citations (over a two-year period) to total articles published. In a manner similar to colleges being sensitive to their rankings in U.S. News and World Report, it is fair to expect that “likelihood of >100 citations” is a real factor in the conference’s decision to accept a research paper proposal.

Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters) has taken this citation data to a whole new level — branded as “journal intelligence” — by monetizing the information into a line of yearly Journal Citation Reports (JCRs). For a given IEEE journal, you can find the journal’s impact factor (plus a couple of additional of other insightful metrics) on the journal’s “home page” on IEEExplore.

Fig. 2 – Snapshot of IEEE Communications Magazine page on IEEExplore

For those of us on a budget, Google Scholar is using its wellspring of citation data to formulated its own metrics to compete with Clarivate’s proprietary “journal impact factor”:

  • h-5 index: the h-index for articles published in the last 5 complete years. It is the largest number h such that h articles published in 2013-2017 have at least h citations each.
  • h-5 median: the median number of citations for the articles that make up its h5-index.

Google Scholar offers a journal ranking with the option to filter by category and subcategory. My current research endeavors fall under “Engineering and Computer Science” and the closest subcategory to my interest areas is “Computer Networks and Wireless Communications”. As of this writing, the Google Scholar ranking for my subcategory places various IEEE publications in 9 of the top 10 positions. Now my job as an academic researcher is two-fold:

  1. Get my research published in one of those top-tier publications
  2. Don’t lower the conference’s lofty impact factor scores!


While research conferences do not have a specific data-driven metric such as “impact factor”, there are clear notions of top-, mid- and bottom tiers held by members of the research community. IEEE and ACM conferences are generally regarded well with certain ones being readily identifiable as “elite”. In some cases, the conference quality is a reflection of the quality of papers that make it through the peer review process and for others it may be the “name recognition” of the academics serving on the conference committees. There are good conferences outside of the IEEE and ACM options but you may want to review past conference publications along with the impact factor assigned to the conference’s journal to get a read on the conference’s overall quality and “popularity”.


One thought on “Lit Research: Research Journals and Conferences”

  1. Great blog post! Provides a quick and to-the-point analysis of conferences and the importance of “citations,” as that is the new form of currency in the academic setting. Very informative and well-written. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *