Image Credit: Stefano Bucciarelli on Unsplash
Image Credit: Stefano Bucciarelli on Unsplash

If you’re a scholarly journal publisher working to enhance the reputation and reach of your titles, applying to have them added to the Web of Science Core Collection is among the best steps you can take. The Web of Science (WoS) is one of the largest and most trusted citation indexes worldwide. WoS indexing can help increase the discoverability of your journal articles, and it’s a precursor to getting a Journal Impact Factor (JIF).

Of course, if you’ve never applied to add a journal to the WoS, you likely have many questions like — Why should I seek inclusion in the WoS Core Collection? What are the WoS indexing criteria? How does the WoS application process work? How long does journal evaluation usually take? And the list goes on!

In this guide to WoS indexing (updated for 2023), we answer the above questions and more, including insights we got from the WoS support team. You can click the quick links below to jump to specific sections. Let’s get to it!

  1. Why apply to add journals to the WoS Core Collection
  2. WoS Core Collection indexing criteria
  3. The WoS Core Collection application process
  4. What to do if your first application isn’t accepted
  5. Answers to WoS indexing FAQs
  6. Putting it all together

Why apply to add journals to the WoS Core Collection

When developing a journal indexing strategy, it’s imperative to weigh all of your options to determine the best indexes to seek inclusion in first and in what order based on your publication goals. So first, let’s talk about the benefits of applying to the WoS Core Collection and what sets it apart from other scholarly indexes and search engines.

As stated in the introduction to this post, the WoS (owned by Clarivate) is one of the largest and most reputable global citation databases. Its Core Collection encompasses ten citation indexes containing information in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities from thousands of scholarly journals, books, conferences, and more, with over a billion searchable citation records.

The WoS Core Collection Journal Citation Indexes are the:

The WoS Core Collection is among the most trusted citation indexes because it has highly robust journal selection criteria and is publisher neutral. A team of in-house editorial experts who’ve declared no conflicts of interest manage all aspects of the WoS Core Collection evaluation process.

The WoS is also unique among scholarly databases in that it indexes all of the metadata within a research output, including every cited and citing reference, creating linkages between newly indexed research and the broader scholarly literature. As a result, the WoS is one of the best indexes for expanding the discoverability of journal articles because it helps researchers find and draw connections between new and past related content.

As previously noted, WoS Core Collection indexing is also a precursor to gaining a Journal Impact Factor. So if you want a JIF, you’ll need to apply at some point. Clarivate allocates a JIF to journals admitted to any of the above Core Collection indexes.

Important note on application timing: Publishers should know that the WoS does not require a minimum journal publication history to apply, so any new title is eligible. However, the WoS journal selection criteria include demonstrating adequate publication volume and sufficient citations, among other markers of a mature journal. So, with that said, you’ll likely want to wait at least a year or two before applying to have a chance to establish your journal in its respective field and accrue enough citations.

WoS Core Collection indexing criteria

Before applying to have a journal added to the WoS Core Collection, you’ll need to ensure it meets all of the selection requirements. The WoS Core Collection uses a set of 28 criteria to evaluate journals, which per its journal selection page, “are divided into 24 quality criteria designed to select for editorial rigor and best practice at the journal level, and four impact criteria designed to select the most impactful journals in their respective fields using citation activity as the primary indicator of impact.”

The WoS team first vets journals against the 24 quality criteria and those that meet them gain admittance to the Emerging Sources Citation Index. From there, journals that meet the additional impact criteria enter the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, or Arts & Humanities Citation Index, depending on their subject area.

The 24 quality criteria all journals must meet include demonstrating:

  • Basic publication information (e.g., journal title, journal publisher, ISSN, contact details, presence of a peer review policy)
  • Article titles and article abstracts in English (note: WoS requires English language bibliographic information for indexing)
  • Timeliness and/or publication volume (the journal must state its publishing schedule — e.g., quarterly, bi-annual, rolling — and demonstrate sufficient publication volume)
  • Scholarly content quality and relevance
  • Website functionality/journal format (e.g., journal websites should be accurate, up-to-date, and easily navigable)
  • Editorial board information, including composition and affiliation details
  • Author information, including author distribution and affiliation details
  • Appropriate citations to the literature

Moving to the additional four impact criteria, the WoS support team said, “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.”

You can find the complete list of WoS Core Collection selection criteria and definitions on the journal selection page.

Journal publishers should know that while the WoS Core Collection uses the same indexing criteria for all titles, the WoS editorial team does have subject experts who review 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.”

The WoS Core Collection application process

Once a journal meets the WoS Core Collection criteria, its publisher can apply for inclusion via the Web of Science Publisher Portal. The WoS journal selection page specifies that only journal publishers can submit WoS evaluation requests.

You can learn more about how to create and verify a WoS Publisher Portal account here and find answers to WoS Publisher Portal FAQs here.

Once a publisher submits a journal application, the WoS Core Collection editors begin its three-part evaluation process, which consists of:

  1. Initial triage: to review that the journal adheres to general publication best practices (e.g., has an 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 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.”

What to do if your first application isn’t accepted

You should know that the WoS Core Collection is highly selective, with a 10-12% acceptance rate for the three flagship collections. Though, in good news for publishers, according to the WoS support team, the acceptance rate for the Emerging Sources Citation Index is generally a bit higher.

With that said, there’s a fair chance your journal may not make it into the WoS Core Collection on your first application try, and that’s OK! You can resubmit your Core Collection application once your publication fulfills all necessary criteria.

According to the WoS support team, 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, the publisher must wait two years to resubmit their application.

Answers to WoS indexing FAQs

We’ve included this section to answer additional WoS indexing questions the Scholastica team commonly hears. If you have any to add, please let us know in the comments, and we’ll do our best to help you get an answer!

How long does the WoS journal evaluation process usually take?

The WoS support team said 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.”

Do publishers have to reapply to have journals in the Emerging Sources Citation Index added to one of the flagship indexes?

No! Once added to the WoS Core Collection, journal evaluation is ongoing. So journals that don’t gain admittance 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.

And, of course, if a journal no longer meets the 24 quality criteria, it will be removed from the Web of Science Core Collection.

Do all journals indexed in the WoS Core Collection receive a Journal Impact Factor (JIF)?

Yes! Historically, journals had to be in the Science Citation Index Expanded or the Social Sciences Citation Index to receive a Journal Impact Factor (JIF), which usually took around three years post-admittance to either collection. However, in July 2022, Clarivate announced that it would allocate a JIF to all WoS Core Collection journals, expanding the JIF to include journals from the Arts and Humanities Citation Index and the Emerging Sources Citation Index.

Per the WoS announcement, “this latest enhancement helps level the playing field for all quality journals including recently-launched journals, open access journals, journals with a niche or regionally-focused scope and journals from the Global South.”

Does the WoS Core Collection have different indexing criteria for open access journals?

There is no difference in WoS Core Collection indexing criteria or opportunities for OA journals. According to the WoS support team, “only the quality and impact of the content itself is considered, not the business model. When selecting, evaluating, and indexing journals, Web of Science Core Collection is completely agnostic to the publishing model.”

It is worth noting that WoS is a subscription-access index, so 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. For example, all OA journals can apply for inclusion in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and seek Google Scholar indexing.

My journal content is already in the WoS database. Do I still need to apply to add it to the WoS Core Collection specifically?

To answer this question, it’s important to first understand how the WoS is structured. At the highest level, the WoS is a platform that aggregates research from multiple citation databases. The WoS support team explained, “WoS contains both selected content, in the Web of Science Core Collection, specialty databases also produced by Clarivate (e.g., 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 WoS platform (e.g., MEDLINE, FSTA, CABI, Inspec), and multidisciplinary national or regional databases that are also hosted on and integrated with our Core Collection (e.g., Chinese Science Citation Database, SciELO, Russian Citation Index, Korean Journals Database, and others in development). Over 20 rigorously curated indexes and 35,000 unique journal sources, 100,000 book titles, and 200,000 published conference proceedings, are part of Web of Science.”

With that said, if a journal is in any of the above databases affiliated with WoS, its articles may be automatically pulled into the WoS database. You can check if your journal is already in the WoS via the Master Journal List.

However, the Core Collection is WoS’ premier index in that it only includes journals selected by its in-house editorial experts via the process above. Admittance to the WoS Core Collection is also necessary to get a Journal Impact Factor.

Putting it all together

Whew, that was a lot of information! Applying to the WoS Core Collection is a process, but when journal teams break it down step by step, it’s not as daunting as it may seem at first. And the reputation and discoverability benefits the WoS Core Collection offers are well worth the effort!

For more information about applying to the WoS Core Collection, visit the WoS journal selection page.

We hope this guide was helpful and invite you to share your thoughts with us in the comments section! For more journal resources, be sure to also follow Scholastica on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Update note: This post was originally published on November 14, 2019 and updated on May 17, 2023.

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