Ranking of Academic Journals – does it work for you?

Ranking of academic journals may seem totally irrelevant and even a bit ridiculous, after all who is to decide whether one peer-reviewed journal with a solid editorial board, renowned professors as editors and regularly publishing work of important scholars is better than an other. Nevertheless, this is an important part of academia and also of many academic debates. Important bodies such as the European Science Foundation or the Norsk Samfunnsvitenskaplig Datatjeneste rank journals, book series and editors. Now, this may of course be good for you, if the journal you publish in or edits get a high ranking then good for you and your CV.

Furthermore in the academic world (at least in Sweden, but I suppose it’s not an uncommon practice), you get points for your publications, and ranking is used to evaluate your research. If an article is published in a high ranking journal you get more points than if it’s published in a low ranking journal. These points are then the basis for promotions, funding and so forth.

Only one MAJOR problem – the system is heavily biased. Naturally, not every publication can be ranked on the top level, if you rank too many publications on the highest level, then your index is not worth anything. There can only be one winner, otherwise the gold medal is quickly devaluated. So the ranking indices have a limited numer of journals that can receive the highest ranking. This means that fields that have representatives in the ranking bodies get journals on the list, other fields regardless of size, impact, quality in the publications and so forth are kindly requested to wait outside.

In 2008 the translation schoolar of the ERIH board (the ranking for ESF) resigned, and in the subsequent rating excersise translation journals mysteriously disappeared. The Publication channel of the Norwegian NSD and very important for the Nordic countries degraded the only two translation journals who had the highest ranking following a merger of bodies who were allowed to rank journals. Translation Studies disappeard from these bodies and mysteriously enough so did the transltion journals. One can of course ask if the journals that were degraded had not lost in quality, and therefore deserved degradation. Truth is nothing, apart from translation scholar presence changed.

For me as a translation scholar it means that if I want to earn points and get good evaluation on my research in order to be competitive for my academic career, I have to publish in other journals or with other editors than the ones in my own field. In order to get published in top ranking journals in other fields I would of course send my best articles. Now, what does that do to the publishers and journals in my own field.

In October the NSD is performing its bi-annual ranking excersise again. Needless to say we are many translation scholars who have approached the ranking bodies with demands to at least put the two degraded journals back on the level they had.

I continue to believe that good solid work will pay off regardless of where it’s published and regardless of ranking. But it annoys me when ranking is totally random and yet have so much influence. So does the ranking work for you? If so, do you have any tips?

You can read more about from this heated debate, here and Open Letter AIETI2SCH-ESFhere.

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