Good news on the citation front: We have just learned that the IJSF will be included in the SCOPUS citation database. We have been a part of the Web of Science/Social Science Citation Index for several years, which also means that the IJSF is ranked in the Journal Citation Reports.
Although this is big news, many of you loyal IJSF blog readers are probably thinking “so what?” Here’s the scoop. One of the main tools used by administrators in higher education for evaluating the quality of scholarship these days is citations. It’s not enough to publish papers in peer-reviewed journals like the IJSF. Researchers are expected to publish papers that are cited by other researchers. Citations are interpreted as a better measure of the quality of scholarship than raw publication counts because citations indicate that some other scholar skimmed or read the paper, and found what was in the paper useful enough to include in the citations of another paper that was good enough to get published.
In the old days, when academics were academics and reference librarians were scared s*%@less, citation counts were difficult to calculate. There were print publications — in economics it was the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) — that occupied scores of linear feet of shelf space in libraries. The SSCI was notoriously difficult to use, because it used cryptic abbreviations for journals and consisted entirely of hundreds of thousands of pages that contained information like this:
74 J EXP PSYCHOL 102 517
ASUNCION AG J EXP S PSY 31 437 95
75 PROGR BEHAVIOR THERA
FOKIAS D CLIN PSYCH 15 437 95
76 J CONSULT CLIN PSYCH 44 910
MALLE BF J PER SOC 68 470 95
MARX EM EUR R AP PS 44 271 95
85 READ TEACH 39 198
PALINCSA.AS SCH PSYCH R 24 331 95
86 ADV COGNITIVE BEHAVI 5 1
BRUCH MA COGN THER R 19 91 95
“ J PERSONAL 63 47 95
HOPE DA BEHAV RES T 33 637 95
89 FAM PLANN PERSPECT 21 170
CURRIE J AM ECON REV 85 106 95
LEWIT EM FUT CHILD 5 35 95
MEHLMANN MJ AM J HU GEN 55 1054 94
92 MANAGEING MULTICULTUR
TAIBI AD DUKE LAW J 44 928 95 R
I found that material on a page at the Western Washington University library explaining how to use the SSCI. That information is now about as useful as knowing how to operate a buggy whip. As you can see, that’s an Incredibly User Friendly Interface ™. The entry summarizes the citations for papers published by someone named R.M. Schwartz. The text in bold indicate the publications. The first line, “74 J EXP PSYCHOL 102 517″ is for a paper that was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (I am guessing – as I mentioned the SSCI journal acronyms were obscure) in 1974. In volume 102, on page 517. The next line “ASUNCION AG J EXP S PSY 31 437 95″ is a citation. Someone named A.G. Asuncion cited Schwartz’s 1974 Journal of Experimental Psychology paper in another journal (J EXP S PSY, whatever the heck that is) in 1995. Note that all of the citations are from 1994 or 1995. That’s because there was a SSCI volume published every year. So to get a citation count for Professor RM Schwartz, you had to thumb through the SSCI volume for every year.
As an aside, dusting off my rusty SSCI reading skills, I can tell you that R.M. Schwartz was writing some good papers. Some of them were still being cited regularly 20 years after publication, and one of his papers was cited in the American Economic Review ( CURRIE J AM ECON REV 85 106 95) a top journal in another discipline. Not too shabby. As you can easily see, getting citation counts was not easy in the Old Days. It involved sitting in the library for hours, doing significant damage to your eyesight (the SSCI was set in a punishingly tiny agate typeface), counting lines in the SSCI. And then you walked home two hours through a blizzard uphill all the way with only tattered rags on your feet. We had it tough in those days.
In these modern times, we have Them Internets ™ to make citation counting easy. That’s where SCOPUS and Web of Science (which is the web-based version of the SSCI) come in. If your university has a subscription to one of these services, you can easily get the citation count for any paper written by any author in a journal that is included in these databases. You can also get a citation count through Google Scholar for free, but Google Scholar citation counts include a lot of citations from outlets other than peer reviewed academic journals.
My method of evaluating the quality of a paper is to read it and decide for myself how good the paper is. But I’m old fashioned, and my method wouldn’t work well if I had to evaluate a paper on, say, quantum mechanics.
This process also extends to the evaluation of scholarly journals. That’s where the Journal Citation Reports come into the picture. Academic journals are now evaluated and ranked based on where, when, and how often papers published in each journal are cited. The JCRs rank journals based on a number of citation metrics that I don’t fully understand. It doesn’t matter that the users of these rankings don’t understand how they are constructed. The user just glances at the rankings to see where Journal X stands. Not the best system, but that’s the way the research biz works.
The bottom line: getting the IJSF in SCOPUS and Web of Science is a good thing because it makes it easier to track citations of papers published in the journal. If you publish a paper in the IJSF, or a paper published in the IJSF cites a paper you published, then those things get fed into the gaping maw of the academic-industrial complex, and will eventually be spit out in the form of citation counts or journal rankings.
Then, if you are lucky, some associate vice dean for evaluation and punishment will glance at your citation count for five seconds, evaluate your work based on that single number, and decide to give you a merit pay increase that will be almost enough, after taxes, to purchase a 9″ cheese pizza (if you have a coupon). Sorry – my cynicism is sometimes difficult to rein in.