We performed a critical analysis of the South African scientific serials literature, including ‘international’ journals indexed by international bibliographical databases, such as Thomson Scientific's Web of Science and other citation indices, as well as ‘local’ journals that are processed for these sources. A ‘composite extended journal impact factor’ was applied in order to compute robust measures of international citation impact that can cope with the small numbers of citations within the international research literature to local journals. Statistical analyses of publication output and citation impact of some 200+ South African journals indicate that the vast majority of local journals are indeed virtually invisible within the global science arena. The outcomes of this novel approach raise important issues about criteria for selecting the most appropriate sets of journals for journal-based research funding formulas, quality assurance systems, and evaluations of research performance.

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