High-impact Journals for Genetics and Genomics

One of the burdens of the information age is that there’s far more content produced than could ever be read by the population. This is categorically true of blogging, but also a fact of research publication. With hundreds of academic journals (ISI indexes over 11,000 science and social science journals) and thousands of articles published each year, there’s simply not time to read them all. There’s not even time to skim them all with an RSS aggregator.

The Wide Reach of Next-Gen Sequencing Studies

In the fields of next-gen sequencing and genomics, this problem is getting worse. Thanks to the democratization of sequencing, researchers in wide variety of biomedical fields have gained access to (and recognized the research utility) of next-gen sequencing technology. As a result, we’re seeing exome and genome sequencing studies published all over the place, not just in genetics/genomics journals but also many that focus on specific tissues (e.g. blood) or diseases (e.g. cancer, metabolic diseases, vision disorders, you name it). So, what, I have to read all of these journals now to keep up with NGS? Not gonna happen.

Journals and Impact Factor

Given this situation, it can be difficult to evaluate the success of an individual or organization based on the publication record
alone. And while we know that something in Science or Nature is a high-profile publication of significant achievement, it’s getting harder and harder to draw comparisons in our field because a large and diverse number of journals have embraced NGS as a research tool. My own CV lists publications in 21 different peer-reviewed journals — not counting book chapters and other one-offs — since 2005.

There *is* a metric for evaluating the significance of a publication based upon its journal, and that metric is called impact factor. Produced each year by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) for journals that have been around (indexed in Journal Citation Reports) for at least two years, the impact factor is a concise measurement of a journal’s value to the research community. High-profile journals that publish only significant research — such as The New England Journal of Medicine (53.30) and Nature (36.28) — have consistently high impact factors because, well, that’s where landmark research tends to be published.

Impact Factor Calculation and Inflation

Ranking journals by impact factor alone is useful but doesn’t tell the whole story. Notably, the impact factor calculation generally uses the date an article comes into print (as opposed to the date it came online), and a recent study in PLoS ONE found (by looking at 61 neuroscience journals) that the rising delays between online and print publication can artificially inflate impact factor.

The number of articles published per year can also influence impact factor; this may help explain why Nature Reviews Genetics (38.08) and Nature Reviews Cancer (37.55) have higher impact factors than Nature (36.28) itself. The Nature Reviews journals publish ~70 papers per year and they’re long, in-depth, extremely high quality review articles for the most part. Nature puts out ten times as many articles or more in a given year (841 in 2011).

Top Research Journals by Impact Factor

Using the latest available ISI data (2011), I’ve compiled a list of genetics and genomics journals ranked by impact factor. I did my best to select journals that:

  • Publish research under ‘genetics’ or ‘genomics’ kewords (ISI keyword search)
  • Have a scope that is either very broad (e.g. Nature) or emphasizing genetic/genomic research.
  • Received a 2011 impact factor of at least 2.
  • Did not imply a narrow scope to a certain disease, tissue, or specialty

In other words, while many fine journals are publishing genetics and genomics studies, I was looking for ones with a broad audience. This is not a bias by any means, but necessary triage to keep these listings to reasonable length. For simplicity, I’ve subdivided these journals into a few categories, and this subdivision is quite informal. In other words, I apologize in advance if you think a journal was omitted or put in the wrong category. As it says in my sidebar, my opinions are my own!

Top General or Medical Journals

Here are the top general/broad interest journals that regularly publish genetics/genomics studies enabled by next-gen sequencing. Many of these are super-competitive journals, the kind where a single publication is a career achievement for some fields.

Journal ISSN Impact Factor 5-Year Avg. Articles Influence
NEW ENGL J MED 0028-4793 53.30 50.08 349 21.30
LANCET 0140-6736 38.28 33.80 276 13.61
NATURE 0028-0836 36.28 36.24 841 20.37
CELL 0092-8674 32.40 34.77 338 20.55
SCIENCE 0036-8075 31.20 32.45 871 17.53
JAMA 0098-7484 30.03 29.68 220 13.11
NAT MED 1078-8956 22.46 26.42 187 12.16
PLOS MED 1549-1277 16.27 15.38 126 6.30
J CLIN INVEST 0021-9738 13.07 15.43 402 6.95
PNAS USA 0027-8424 9.68 10.47 3614 4.90
BMC MED 1741-7015 6.04 5.77 114 2.11
PLOS ONE 1932-6203 4.09 4.54 13781 1.80

The last entry above, PLoS ONE, is an interesting animal. I’ve had a chip in my shoulder about this journal because their review policy requires only that submissions be scientifically rigorous, not that the findings be significant. This just rubs me the wrong way; it makes me think “If this research isn’t significant, why am  I reading it?” And yet, there are lots of interesting papers (like the one about inflated impact factors that inspired this blog post) published in PLoS ONE. So I probably just need to get over myself.

Top Genetics and Genomics Journals

Next up, and probably most interesting to you readers, is the list of journals themed around genetics and genomics. Here, I required an impact score of at least 5, because there were far too many journals otherwise. I took out a couple of “Annual Reviews” journals that only publish once a year.

Journal ISSN Impact Factor 5-Year Avg. Articles Influence
NAT REV GENET 1471-0056 38.08 31.36 71 16.96
NAT GENET 1061-4036 35.53 33.10 196 17.58
GENOME RES 1088-9051 13.61 12.49 208 7.16
GENE DEV 0890-9369 11.66 12.79 236 8.02
PLOS BIOL 1545-7885 11.45 13.63 180 7.84
AM J HUM GENET 0002-9297 10.60 11.72 162 5.87
TRENDS GENET 0168-9525 10.06 8.99 60 4.48
GENOME BIOL 1474-7596 9.04 7.90 151 4.13
PLOS GENET 1553-7390 8.69 9.17 548 5.11
CUR OPIN GEN DEV 0959-437X 8.09 8.04 105 4.38
SCI TRANSL MED 1946-6234 7.80 7.81 216 4.11
HUM MOL GENET 0964-6906 7.64 7.51 463 3.16
MOL THER 1525-0016 6.87 6.28 230 2.02
MUTAT RES-REV 1383-5742 6.46 7.92 21 2.42
J MED GENET 0022-2593 6.37 5.67 131 2.28
BMC BIOL 1741-7007 5.75 5.84 48 2.78
HUM MUTAT 1059-7794 5.69 5.85 200 2.35
MOL BIOL EVOL 0737-4038 5.55 9.86 297 3.84
DNA RES 1340-2838 5.16 5.28 42 2.06
EVOLUTION 0014-3820 5.15 5.61 285 2.43
HUM GENET 0340-6717 5.07 4.18 137 1.61

My personal opinion is that Nature Genetics and Genome Research are the two top journals specific to our field, and the impact factor seems to support that. Several of my favorite journals (PLoS Biology, AJHG, Genome Biology, PLoS Genetics) are right in the 8 to 10 range. There are many, many options for publishing your genetic or genomic research, so you really have no excuse to be sitting on something!

Top Technology and Informatics Journals

I would be remiss not to include another category of journals with a focus on technology, methods, or bioinformatics. For us methods developers, these are great places to send manuscripts.

Journal ISSN Impact Factor 5-Year Avg. Articles Influence
NAT BIOTECHNOL 1087-0156 23.27 28.16 84 12.95
NAT METHODS 1548-7091 19.28 20.45 128 11.15
BIOINFORMATICS 1367-4803 5.47 6.05 707 2.61
PLOS COMPUT BIOL 1553-734X 5.22 5.84 407 2.72
BRIEF BIOINFORM 1467-5463 5.20 7.75 65 2.86
BMC BIOINFORMAT 1471-2105 2.75 3.49 557 1.32
BMC BIOTECHNOL 1472-6750 2.35 3.08 126 0.92

Of course, Nature Biotechnology and Nature Methods have the highest impact factor, but the journal Bioinformatics (a popular venue for many NGS analysis tools) is at a respectable 5.47.

Other Top Genetics and Genomics Journals

What are some other high-impact journals that broadly accept genetics/genomics/NGS manuscripts? Feel free to leave me a comment.


Tort, A., Targino, Z., & Amaral, O. (2012). Rising Publication Delays Inflate Journal Impact Factors PLoS ONE, 7 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053374


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Interesting post! Concerning your statement “If this research isn’t significant, why am I reading it?” for PLoS ONE: Well, as the journal does not say anything at all about significance, it could well be significant. As you said, there are many interesting articles in it, which therefore are likely to get cited, which I would consider a strong indicator for their significance. On the other hand, I would consider articles never cited as insignificant. Isn't that a nice idea to let the community decide over significance rather than an editor and a handful of reviewers? The only thing one has to ensure is methodological and scientific soundness, which is what PLoS ONE does.


Thanks, nice list. I'd include NAR - plenty of genomics, genetics and even NGS papers, and an IF of 8.


While I agree with the idea that it's essential to know where relevant and interesting research is getting published, I also feel that it's necessary to point out that the Impact Factor is a completely broken metric as the distribution of citations per publication is totally skewed.

Stephen Curry had a great post on all the flaws of the IF last year: http://occamstypewriter.org/scurry/2012/08/13/sick-of-impact-factors/

Dan Koboldt
Dan Koboldt


Thank you for the comment... I hadn't really thought of it that way, and I think you make an excellent point. Let the community decide! And given PLoS ONE's rising impact factor, I think the community *has* decided.