Tag Archives: impact factor

Interdisciplinary science – what should we measure, and why?

Research impact assessments of academic environments with bibliometric indicators are becoming increasingly important. Not only do they define where you are placed in international rankings of research institutes, but they are also being used as a basis for distribution of funds. This might sound like a smart and simple way to secure funds for world-leading researchers. But it could also create difficulties for interdisciplinary research environments. Here is one example.
Lennart Olsson from Lund University gave an interesting and critical presentation at the Resilience Conference in Arizona early this year, and presented data indicating that resilience thinking has had very little impact in the social science community. The analysis is the following. First, pick the 10 top-ranked social sciences journals (based on Science Gateway) for a few disciplines. Then, search for articles that contain “social-ecological systems” AND “resilience”. The results:

So, is resilience thinking (from a social science perspective) in crisis? If the ambition is to target mainstream top-political science journals, we sure are. Two issues could be raised here however. One: is this really the best way to measure our impact in the social sciences? Why not (just as one example) look for articles that reference Holling’s, Folke’s or Elinor Ostrom’s work for example?

A second, and I would argue more important objection to the analysis, is whether the sort of metric Olsson uses really captures the core ambition of interdisciplinary research. Bluntly put: isn’t the whole point of building interdisciplinary teams, teaching, methods and research networks, to create innovative sustainability science that is hard to classify as “social” or “natural”? These articles are not likely to fit easily into mono-disciplinary social science journals. If that is the case, how do we measure the scientific success of such attempts, without contributing to an artificial split between the “social” and the “natural”?

I assume many of you have had similar experiences or thoughts. Feel free to share in the comment field below.

Impact factor of resilience journals rises

ISI’s new impact factors are out.  While there are lots of problems with impact factors, particularly for comparing across fields, they influence where people send their papers and the evaluation of researchers.

So it is good news to see that Ecology and Society‘s impact factor rose substantially in 2010 vs. 2009.

The 2010 impact factor was 3.310 vs. 1.735 in 2009.

However, because E&S publishes relatively few papers a year (92 in 2009, 95 in 2008, 71 in 2007) there is a lot of jumping around from year to year, and at least some of this jumping around is due to ISI undercounting citations to ES due to problems of inconsistency in the citation of  electronic journals (no page numbers).  However, despite this variation 3.3 is well above the average IF of the previous 4 years of 2.5.

Also, Global Environmental Change, another journal that publishes a substantial amount of resilience research saw its impact factor also rise to 4.918, well above the previous four year average of 3.45.

What’s nice to see also is that this rise in citations isn’t dominated by one highly cited paper, but rather a broad set of quite different cited papers:

The 3 most cited papers from 2008 and 2009 from Ecology and Society were all from 2008:

  1. The Growing Importance of Social Learning in Water Resources Management and Sustainability Science by Claudia Pahl-Wostl and others.
  2. Disaster Preparation and Recovery: Lessons from Research on Resilience in Human Development by Ann Masten and Jelena Obradovic, and
  3. The Roles and Movements of Actors in the Deforestation of Brazilian Amazonia by Phillip Fearnside

and the 3 most cited papers from GEC were from 2009 and 2008 were

  1. The story of phosphorus: Global food security and food for thought by Dana Cordell and others
  2. Adaptive co-management and the paradox of learning by Derek Armitage and others, and
  3. Strategies to adapt to an uncertain climate change by Stephane Hallegatte

I will more broadly look at impact trends in resilience related journals later in the summer.

Journal rankings of environmental studies and science

The impact of journals over the short and the long term is often quite different.  ScienceWatch.com presents journal impact factors based on the longer term impact of journals in environmental science and environmental studies.

Below are rankings in environmental science for between 1998 and 2007, which only include journals cited over 10,000 times between 1998-2007.

Rank Journal Papers Citations Citations/
1 Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution & Systematics 131 15,293 116.74
2 Nature 395 41,042 103.9
3 Science 397 34,568 87.07
4 Trends in Ecology and Evolution 727 39,356 54.13
5 Ecological Monographs 309 11,310 36.6
6 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 491 17,088 34.8
7 Systematic Biology 416 12,194 29.31
8 Ecology 3,161 80,313 25.41
9 Ecology Letters 1,133 26,327 23.24
10 The American Naturalist 1,618 36,694 22.68
11 Conservation Biology 1,729 36,209 20.94
12 Environmental Health Perspectives 3,374 70,023 20.75
13 Molecular Ecology 3,345 69,275 20.71
14 Ecological Applications 1,711 34,899 20.4
15 Journal of Ecology 1,081 20,969 19.4
16 Global Change Biology 1,508 27,995 18.56
17 Journal of Applied Ecology 1,162 21,032 18.1
18 Oecologia 3,219 56,010 17.4
19 Ecosystems 705 12,199 17.3
20 Environmental Science & Technology 10,006 171,816 17.17

note: The data for the multidisciplinary journals listed – Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of the USA – take into account only those articles that have been classified by Thomson Reuters as ecology and environmental sciences papers.

And, using a slightly different system, journal rankings in Environmental Studies.  Note the contrast in short and longer term rankings.  It is unclear whether these are due to changes in the journal over time, or speed of citation.

Rank 2007 Impact Factor Impact 2003-07 Impact 1981-2007
1 Ann. Rev. Envir. Res.
Ann. Rev. Envir. Res.
J. Envir. Econ./Mgmt.
2 Global Envir. Change
Global Envir. Change
Environ. & Planning-D
3 Energy Policy
J. Envir. Econ./Mgmt.
Environment & Behavior
4 Environ. & Planning-D
J. Envir. Psychology
Land Economics
5 Regional Studies
Int. Region. Sci. Rev.
J. Leisure Research
6 Harvard Env. Law Rev.
Landscape Urban Plan.
J. Envir. Psychology
7 Environ. & Planning-A
Environ. & Planning-A
Global Envir. Change
8 Int. Region. Sci. Rev.
Res. & Energy Economics
Regional Studies
9 Landscape Urban Plan.
Land Economics
J. Regional Science
10 Energy Journal
Environ. & Planning-D
Environ. & Planning-A