Thursday, September 19, 2013

Journal Impact Factors

Journal impact factors are becoming more important in university hiring and promotion. At my university, the impact factors have to be listed on faculty CVs for promotion. At my former university, promotion cases needed to include citation data as part of the package. We came up with set prose to explain why the importance or impact of publications in anthropology or archaeology is not well described in standard sources of citation metrics. There is an explosion of research and publishing ABOUT journal impact factors and citation metrics. I just checked Google-Scholar, and found 135,000 entries for "journal impact factor," with over 7,000 for 2013 alone. Scholars know more and more about how biased and misleading these data are, yet their usage by university administrators keeps growing.

Here are the top archaeology journals listed in the ISI Web of Knowledge for 2012:

1.94  --  Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
1.89  --  Journal of Archaeological Science
1.79  --  Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory
1.66  --  American Antiquity
1.44  --  Antiquity

I think this is the first time JAnthArch has overtaken Jr. ArchSci. But the journals I have published in most often--Latin American Antiquity and Ancient Mesoameirca--are not even listed. So right here we have one of the big problems with the ISI database: most journals are not included. This, of course, influences calculation of one's h-index. If  you want to look good, get your h-index calculated by Google-Citation; it uses Google Scholar, which does have all the journals.

The problem of disciplinary differences in citation metrics (impact factors and h-indices) is well discussed in the literature. In the ISI database, journals in physical anthropology are ranked higher than archaeology journals. You will never guess the most highly-ranked journal in the ISI Anthropology category (answer below).

I am co-author on a group article that was just rejected by the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. We describe some transdisciplinary comparative urban research that  many people (including the National Science Foundation) consider new and exciting. But the paper was not theoretical enough for IJURR; reviewers were puzzled at why one would want to publish a paper based on data, and omit the latest social theory. Oh, well. In discussing where to submit the paper next, we faced a decision between two likely journals. The one that better corresponds to an audience we want to reach (Jr. Urban History) has a lower impact factor than the other journal (Jr. Historical Geography). But our project has already published a couple of papers in Geography journals (mainly Urban Geography), and we want to reach a more historical audience. So Jr. Urban History won out. But we did discuss the impact factors. Half of the authors are graduate students, and with the trend of more attention to journal impact factors, publishing in a higher-ranked journal might be beneficial for their career down the line. In this case, disciplinary audience won out over impact factor.

The highest impact factor in the ISI Anthropology list is the Journal of Peasant Studies. Go figure. Perhaps I should flaunt the fact that in the past year I've had papers rejected by the highest-ranked journals in the world! I feel much better being rejected by Science and Nature than I would if a paper was rejected by, say, the journal Ethnology (impact factor of 0.09).

See prior posts on journal impact factors, from 2011 from 2010,   and 2010.


stone said...

Cool! I like your top archaeology journals!

Anonymous said...

Nice post!

I wrote a related post recently on my blog, looking at Google's calculation of the h-index:

Cliff Brown

Michael E. Smith said...

I guess great minds think alike (but not identically)!

Katherine Shurik said...

Quick question. Aren't American Antiquity and Latin American Antiquity both published by the SAA, with the main difference being the geographic concentration of the latter? So in that case, would the ranking be considered different or the same?

Sahar Saleem said...

A very interesting and beneficial blog. Thank you Michael.

mari bakan said...

Thank you michael.your blog is very useful.