Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Journal Rankings and "Impact Factors" a Hot Topic

The July 2011 issue of the journal Organization has a special section on "Journal Publishing and Rankings," with the editors' introduction, "What Is a Critical Journal?" available for free download.
  This special attention comes at a time when a great deal of discussion is underway about the usefulness of "impact factors" and other journal ranking schemes (the Organization articles also discuss the Association of Business Schools list) in the wake of the release of lists for 2010. Many universities weigh publications according to the importance of the journal in which they appear, often assessed through Thomson Reuters Journal Impact Factor rankings. The issue until recently has been less pronounced in history and the humanities, but Journal Citation Reports now make citation and other data available for journals across many disciplines and countries. T-R says, "The recognized authority for evaluating journals, JCR presents quantitative data that supports a systematic, objective review of the world’s leading journals. Using a combination of impact and influence metrics, and millions of cited and citing journal data points that comprise the complete journal citation network of Web of Science, JCR provides the context to understand a journal’s true place in the world of scholarly literature." But worries continue that the data are misleading. For a quick overview related to history, see Robert Townsend's report on AHA Today. He concludes that "The narrow measure of the Journal Citation Reports makes many specialized and distinctive works of history invisible to the larger academic world, at considerable cost to the rest of us."
  Outside the United States, similar concerns abound, even as the quest for an appropriate ranking system continues. The European Reference Index in the Humanities was first published in 2008 by the European Science Foundation (Chronicle of Higher Education [CHE], October 10, 2008) (and Robert Townsend wrote a comment on the ERIH rankings on AHA Today). The system created such an outcry that the ESF went back to the drawing board, and recently released rankings based on a new scheme  (see CHE, July 13, 2011), only to have this version strongly criticized as well. The list site now has a disclaimer that reads: "[The list] is not intended as bibliometric information for use in assessment processes of individual candidates, be it for positions, promotions, research grant awards etc." This spring, the Australian government abandoned a journals ranking system that had generated much criticism from scholars in that country (see CHE and here).
     For the ERIH lists in history (2007 and 2011), see Andrew Smith's blog (they can also be filtered out from the ERIH overall list), and for the top 20 journals in history according to the 2010 Journal Citation Report, see here.