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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ranking Scholarly Journals: The European Experience

In this week's Chronicle of Higher Education: New Ratings of Humanities Journals Do More Than Rank — They Rankle, by Jennifer Howard:

A large-scale, multinational attempt in Europe to rank humanities journals has set off a revolt. In a protest letter, some journal editors have called it "a dangerous and misguided exercise." The project has also started a drumbeat of alarm in this country, as U.S.-based scholars begin to grasp the implications for their own work and the journals they edit.

The ranking project, known as the European Reference Index for the Humanities, or ERIH, is the brainchild of the European Science Foundation, which brings together research agencies from many countries. It grew from a desire to showcase high-quality research in Europe. Panels of four to six scholars, appointed by a steering committee, compiled initial lists of journals to be classified in 15 fields. Each journal was assigned to a category — A, B, or C — depending on its reputation and international reach.  (See box below.) ...

The European Reference Index for the Humanities project, or ERIH, assigns journals to one of three categories: A, B, or C. Category assignment is based partly on a journal's reputation. That evaluation is made by panels of four to six experts appointed by a steering committee of humanities scholars. The panels rely on information provided by the 80 or so member institutions of the European Science Foundation, which sponsors the project. Citation rates also play a part in categorization, and the panels get that information from commercial databases. Here are the category definitions as spelled out in ERIH's guidelines, with examples of journals that were placed in those groups:

Category A:  "High-ranking international publications with a very strong reputation among researchers of the field in different countries, regularly cited all over the world."

  • Examples: The American Historical Review, Arthuriana, British Journal for the History of Science

Category B: "Standard international publications with a good reputation among researchers of the field in different countries."

  • Examples: Journal of American History, Journal of Narrative Theory, Journal of the History of Philosophy

Category C:  "Research journals with an important local/regional significance in Europe, occasionally cited outside the publishing country though their main target group is the domestic academic community."

  • Examples: Food and Foodways, Slovak Review, Communication and Cognition-Artificial Intelligence

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