Posts Tagged ‘Journal Impact Factor’

The ISI journal impact factors for 2012 were recently released, as I found out the other day via Orgtheory, since I don’t pay any attention to things like journal impact factors. I continued not paying attention to them until I saw a post on Facebook pointing out that Teaching Sociology is one of a record 66 journals banned from the list. (In case you’re counting, this post is the third out of the past four that have been inspired by Facebook. I am clearly spending my summer productively.) How does a journal get banned from the list? The previous link states that this occurs “because of excessive self-citation or because of ‘citation stacking’ (in which journals cite each other to excessive amounts).” Last year 51 journals were banned and only 34 journals were banned two years ago, so this seems to be an increasing concern.

Some of the posts about this, including Teppo’s at Orgtheory, state that these journals were banned for trying to manipulate their impact factors, but I’m not sure how much intent can be implied by the banning. Unlike US News rankings, which colleges can attempt to manipulate, editors themselves are not responsible for the citations of the papers in their journals. The very brief document that explains the reason for the bans (called “title suppression” by Thomson Reuters, who is in charge of the impact factors) states on the first page that “Thomson Reuters does not assume motive on behalf of any party,” so it appears that too much self-citation is bad regardless of the reasons.

Teaching Sociology provides an interesting counterpoint to the practice of banning journals from the list. If I write a sociological paper about an issue related to small group processes and publish it in Social Psychology Quarterly, I am likely to cite sources from a wide variety of journals because a wide variety of journals include papers about small group processes. If I write a sociological paper about an issue related to teaching and publish it in Teaching Sociology, however, I am likely to cite sources primarily from Teaching Sociology, since it is one of the only places to publish papers about this topic and, as a result, serves as a sort of unofficial archive of teaching-related publications in the discipline. I am not familiar with any of the other banned journals, but it would be interesting to see how many of them are, like Teaching Sociology, specialty journals that are the primary outlet for publications in their area.

Although I highly doubt that anybody at Teaching Sociology has a malicious intent to game the impact factor system, the high number of self-citations does point to a potential problem with insularity among sociologists who publish about teaching. Even if we cannot find discipline-specific exercises, I am sure that sociologists could find useful information about more abstract practices in the teaching-related journals of other disciplines. Maybe it is time for an interdisciplinary outlet for teaching-related publications. Or maybe there is an interdisciplinary outlet for teaching-related publications and I’m just not aware of it because I’m a sociologist who reads, cites, and publishes in Teaching Sociology.

Read Full Post »