Black Studies Journal Assessment: Two Possibilities

By Weissinger, Thomas | Journal of Pan African Studies, September 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Black Studies Journal Assessment: Two Possibilities


Weissinger, Thomas, Journal of Pan African Studies


Introduction

Because researchers are often advised to publish in high quality journals, it is not surprising that prospective authors would inquire about the relative importance of particular Black Studies journals. The reputational value ascribed to a given scholarly journal is transferable. Such prestige is transferable to individuals, particularly when under tenure review by tenure committees. They are transferable as well to universities and colleges when comparative rankings among peer institutions are at issue. (1) A mainstay for data about the impact and prestige of scholarship is the Web of Science, a highly respected citation research tool available from the Thomson Reuters Company. It is used to search scholarly articles in over 10,000 of the highest impact, well-regarded journals worldwide. Included within the Web of Science are the Journal Citation Reports. (2) By compiling an articles' cited references, the Journal Citation Reports help to measure research influence and impact and shows the relationship between citing and cited journals.

A problem confronting Black Studies researchers is that many of the relevant journals in the field are omitted from the standard journal ranking systems. As concluded in a recent study on the issue, "When librarians assist black studies faculty in collecting data from Web of Science to support promotion or tenure review, they should caution faculty that if they have not published in Journal of Black Studies, The Black Scholar, Race & Class, or some other journal in a related field that is covered by Web of Science, it will be difficult to show impact in their field using Web of Science." (3) The focus of this article is on two unique avenues that can be followed to create a journal ranking system for Black Studies.

Before proceeding a word about terminology is in order. Throughout this article the term "Black Studies" is used. More than 80% of institutions that grant degrees in Black Studies (258 of 311) have names that connect with the African Diaspora. These include African American or Afro-American (32%), Africana (20%), African and African American (14%), Black (12%), Pan African (2%), African (2%), Africology (1%). (4) The terms are used here interchangeably. The Black Studies journals considered in this article are primarily about the African American experience or Africans in the diaspora. The latter are limited to journals such as the International Journal of Africana Studies, Journal of Pan African Studies, Palara, Race & Class, Transition, and so on.

The first of the two proposals is an unpublished report written by Abdul Alkalimat for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The report is called "The Academic Journals of Black Studies: A Preliminary Report," hereafter referred to as the Alkalimat report. Its validation is based on previous work conducted by Alkalimat to determine valued journals in the field, the expert opinion of other Black Studies scholars requested to make recommendations, and library holdings at the Afro-American Bibliographic Unit of the University Library. The report also offers a rudimentary outline of Black Studies journal evaluation based on various features of the journals themselves. Its purpose is to identify the most important and current Black Studies journals available. The report directs one to specific Black Studies journals for the sole purpose of helping people in the field decide where to publish. It serves to channel research and publication in the same direction so that everyone in the field can literally be on the same page.

The second proposal is an email memorandum distributed to the Editorial Board of the Journal of Pan African Studies. It is entitled "JPAS: Cited Half-Life, Impact Factor, Article Influence, Eigenfactor Score, Afrofactor/Afrifactor" and was written by Itibari M. Zulu, the journal's Senior Editor. Hereafter the email will be referred to as the Zulu memorandum. …

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