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For many scholarly publishers, getting their journals added to the Web of Science Core Collection is one of their top indexing goals. Web of Science (WoS) is one of the largest and most reputable global citation databases. Its Core Collection encompasses six citation indexes in the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, and collectively contains more than a billion searchable citations spanning over 250 disciplines. WoS is unique in that it indexes all of the metadata within each research output it contains, including every cited and citing reference, creating linkages between the indexed research and the wider scholarly literature. WoS indexing can increase journal discoverability and is also a precursor to getting a Journal Impact Factor.

If you’ve never applied to have a journal added to the WoS Core Collection before, you likely have a lot of logistical questions like — What are the WoS Core Collection inclusion requirements? How does the WoS Core Collection application process work? How long does it take for a journal to be evaluated? And the list goes on!

At Scholastica, we’ve heard many questions from journals using our platform about how to approach WoS indexing. Recently, we reached out to the WoS support team to learn more about what to expect from the WoS Core Collection application and evaluation process. In this blog post, we share insights from that outreach and overview what you need to know about getting a journal added to WoS for the first time.

A big thanks to the WoS support team for responding to our questions!

Understanding how WoS aggregates content

Before digging into the specifics of how to apply to WoS Core Collection, let’s take a look at how WoS is organized. At the highest level, WoS is a platform that aggregates research from multiple citation databases. The WoS support team explained, “WoS contains both selected content, in Web of Science Core Collections (Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Emerging Sources Citation Index, Book Citation Index, and Conference Proceedings Citation Index), specialty databases also produced by Clarivate (Biosis Citation Index and Biosis Previews, Derwent Innovations Index, Data Citation Index, Index Chemicus, Zoological Record), specialty databases produced by other organizations and hosted on the Web of Science platform (MEDLINE, FSTA, CABI, Inspec), and multidisciplinary national or regional databases that are also hosted on and integrated with our Core Collection (Chinese Science Citation Database, SciELO, Russian Citation Index, Korean Journals Database, and others in development). In total, over 20 rigorously curated indexes, and 35,000 unique journal sources, along with 100,000 book titles and 200,000 published conference proceedings are part of Web of Science.”

With multiple databases nested within the WoS platform, there are different ways for journal’s articles to be indexed by WoS. You can check to see if your journal is already indexed in WoS via the Master Journal List. In this blog post, we are focusing on how to get a journal added to WoS Core Collection, which is WoS’ premier index. WoS support explained, “only journals, books, and proceedings that have been selected by our in-house editors are indexed for these products.”

Indexing requirements for WoS Core Collection

Before applying to have a journal added to WoS Core Collection, it’s important to ensure that it meets all of the selection criteria. Initial WoS Core Collections selection is based on a set of 24 “quality criteria” designed to assess the journal’s publishing process and content. All journals, regardless of discipline, are assessed based on the same 24 quality criteria, which include:

  • Basic publication information (e.g. journal title, journal publisher, ISSN, contact details)
  • Article titles and article abstracts in English (note: WoS requires English language bibliographic information for indexing)
  • Presence of a peer review policy
  • Timeliness and/or publication volume
  • Scholarly content quality and relevance
  • Website functionality/journal format
  • Editorial board information including composition and affiliation details
  • Author information including author distribution and affiliation details

Journals that pass all 24 quality criteria are included in the Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI). All journals are also evaluated against four impact criteria — so WoS Core Collection has 28 evaluation criteria in total. The WoS support team explained, “the four impact criteria are designed to select for the most impactful journals in a given field of research, using citation activity as a primary indicator. Citation analysis is conducted at the journal level, author level, and editorial board level. At this stage, a comparative citation analysis per category is carried out.” Journals that meet all 28 WoS Core Collection selection criteria are added to WoS Core Collection’s flagship indexes based on subject areas covered — Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and/or the Arts & Humanities Citation Index.

You can find the complete list of selection criteria on the WoS Core Collection Editorial Selection Process page.

While WoS Core Collection uses the same indexing criteria for all journals, WoS does have subject expert editors and reviews each application in the context of the journal’s discipline. The WoS support team said, “our editors are knowledgeable of the way publication and citation behaviors vary in practice in different subject areas. Those differences are taken into consideration.”

Once added to WoS, journal evaluation for WoS Core Collection is ongoing. So journals that are not added to one of the WoS Core Collection flagship databases during their initial application review will be regularly reassessed for inclusion and added to appropriate flagship collections if/when they meet the four impact criteria. If, at any point, a journal no longer meets the inclusion criteria for any of the WoS Core Collection databases they have been added to they will be removed.

WoS indexing for open access journals

If you publish one or more open access journals and you’re wondering if and how WoS Core Collection indexing may vary for those titles, you should know that there is no difference in indexing criteria or opportunities for OA journals. The WoS support team explained, “only the quality and impact of the content itself is considered, not business model. When selecting, evaluating and indexing journals, Web of Science Core Collection is completely agnostic to publishing model.”

It is worth noting that WoS is a subscription-access index, so in order to expand the reach and impacts of research as widely as possible, OA journals will likely want to apply for inclusion in other freely available scholarly databases and indexes as well. For example, all OA journals can apply for inclusion in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and there are many freely available discipline-specific indexes, such as PubMed Central for journals in the biomedical and life sciences.

Process for submitting a WoS application and what to expect during the evaluation process

Once you know that your journal meets the inclusion criteria for WoS Core Collection, you can start the application process. The WoS Core Collection application can be found here. Publishers should review the Electronic Journal Submission requirements on that page to make sure they haven’t missed any of the more specific application criteria listed (e.g. “bibliographic information in Roman Script”) and then select “Ok” to confirm adherence and continue to the application form.

Once your journal application form has been submitted, WoS will begin its three-part evaluation process, which consists of:

  1. Initial triage: to review that the journal adheres to basic publication best practices (e.g. has ISSN, is peer-reviewed)
  2. Editorial triage: to check publication quality and adherence to bibliographic requirements
  3. Editorial evaluation: to review editorial standards — this stage also includes assessment for the four impact criteria

The WoS support team said that they communicate with publishers as needed throughout the evaluation process to ensure they have all of the necessary information to conduct a thorough journal assessment. “Our editorial team will interact directly with the publisher and, as needed, the editor and members of the editorial board as we conduct and complete evaluation. Editorial decisions are publisher independent, and the evaluation is done at the level of the named source publication – that is a journal, a book series, a conference proceedings volume, or a single-volume book.”

The WoS support team said that the initial application evaluation process may take anywhere from three to six months. From there, if accepted, journals will be regularly re-evaluated to determine if they still meet all of the quality criteria and if they meet the four impact criteria. WoS support explained, “re-evaluation of journals to change coverage is performance-based, not time-based; therefore, only when data alert the WoS editorial team that journals have evolved significantly regarding quality and/or impact, will they be re-evaluated and placed in the collection where they belong.”

WoS Core Collection is highly selective with a 10-12% acceptance rate for the three flagship collections. The WoS support team said that the acceptance rate for the Emerging Sources Citation Index is generally higher.

If your journal does not get accepted to WoS Core Collection from your initial application, you can re-submit your application once you’ve made the necessary publication updates. If a journal fails to meet any of the requirements during the “initial triage” or “editorial triage” stages, they can resubmit their application as soon as they’ve taken the necessary steps to fulfill the criteria they missed. If a journal fails to meet any of the requirements at the “editorial quality evaluation” stage, they will be required to wait two years to resubmit their application.

Time to get started

Whew, that was a lot of information! But now you’re ready to start the WoS application process. For more detailed information on WoS Core Collection indexing, be sure to visit the Editorial Selection Process website and check out their “Overview of journal evaluation process and selection criteria” PDF guide.

Once accepted into WoS Core Collection, the benefits for journals are many, including enhanced journal reputation and discoverability.