Bibliometrics and the Evaluation of Australian Sociology (2)

By Phelan, Thomas J. | Journal of Sociology, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Bibliometrics and the Evaluation of Australian Sociology (2)


Phelan, Thomas J., Journal of Sociology


Sociol Focu(*)    1.82       1      0
Sociol Form(*)    2.55       3      1
Sociol Fors(*)    0.13       1      0
Sociol Heal       6.64      25     17
Sociol Inq(*)     2.65       7      5
Sociol Met(*)     5.80       1      1
Sociol Meth       7.28       4      4
Sociot Pers(*)    2.41       2      0
Sociol Q(*)       4.68       5      4
Sociol Rel        0.93       6      2
Sociol Rev(*)     3.46      59     22
Sociol Rur(*)     2.85       5      5
Sociol Soc(*)     3.46       7      4
Sociol Spor(*)    2.61       6      4
Sociology(*)      5.81      63     34
Sotsiol Iss(*)    0.19       1      1
Symb Inter(*)     3.53       1      0
Teach Socio       2.17       4      3
Technol Soc       0.77       9      8
Theor Med         1.94       3      2
Theor Soc(*)      3.51      27     17
Work Employ       2.64      16      8
Work Occup        6.15      13      8
Youth Soc         3.82       2      2
Z Ethnolog        0.51       1      1
Z Soziolog(*)     2.18       2      1
Zygon             1.32       5      2
TOTAL             2.03    3572   1958

Defining the appropriate journal set to examine is a critical aspect of evaluating performance by field. It can be defined very narrowly to include only journals that are unambiguously sociological. Among the 207 journals classified as sociological by ISI, fifty-nine of them were considered `purely' sociological and not categorised jointly with other fields. Of this narrow subset of fifty-nine journals, Australians published in thirty-seven of them (marked by asterisks in Table 1). Clearly, the problem stemming from a narrow definition of the field is that a majority of sociologists publish in a far broader range of journals.

On the other hand, defining a field too broadly will mean that much of the work appearing in the journals may not be very sociological. There is no right or wrong answer as to how the journal set should be defined. The important point to remember is that the `field' being evaluated here is defined on the basis of which journals individuals publish in. Thus, the choice of journals examined is likely to have an important impact on findings.

In the Australian case, a regional committee might better define which journals ought to be considered sociological than can ISI. On the other hand, ISI has the benefit of having access to data that enables it to determine which journals cite each other. The ISI classification of sociology journals that is analysed in this paper is essentially identifiable as a cluster of journals that tend to cite each other. While the core of this cluster consists of journals that are unambiguously sociological, journals on the periphery span one or more other' fields. In the end, the final choice of which journals are sociological must be somewhat arbitrary, but a noteworthy advantage of using ISI journal classifications is that, as an independent organisation, ISI is free from pressure to define a journal set that might cast certain more powerful local constituencies in a more favourable light.

The impact of a journal

Also of interest in Table 1 are the `impact scores' for individual journals. These scores are the average number of citations per article published in a particular journal. This score will vary depending on the time period over which data are collected. In the data presented here, the impact scores were calculated by averaging the impact over every year since 1981 that a journal was publishing. The notion of `impact' addresses the elusive issue of journal quality. By this view, publishing in a journal that is highly cited is considered a greater accomplishment than publishing in a journal that is rarely cited. The two sociological publications with the highest impact scores are The American Sociological Review (ASR) and the American Journal of Sociology. It is indeed the case that both these journals have high prestige in the field and, correspondingly, a very high article rejection rate--nearly 90 per cent in the case of the ASR (Hargens 1988). …

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