European Journal Rankings (ERIH)

The European Science Foundation has been working on ranking academic journals in various disciplines.  Here are their brand new rankings of journals in philosophy and in history and philosophy of science.

I recently spoke with a member of the committee that ranked philosophy journals.  He explained the ESF criteria as follows:

Journals that “make the discipline” got an A.
Journals with international audiences, authors, and editorial boards got a B.
Other European journals got a C.

It appears that many European journals were considered of too marginal interest to be ranked at all.

The significance of these rankings lies in the provincial attitude of many philosophical communities in Europe (England and Scandinavia being the main exceptions), including most people who do “Continental” philosophy.    Notice that virtually all journals that got an A are “analytic” journals and publish solely in English.  Many philosophers in many European countries, especially within non-“analytic” circles, are very happy to publish only in their native languages in journals published by their local friends and colleagues, without the kind of peer reviewing that goes on in major “analytic” philosophy journals.

Now we all know that peer reviewing in analytic philosophy suffers from many problems, starting with how long it takes to get a response from journals.  But if you simply rely on your network of friends to get you published, this is unlikely to improve the quality of your work.  And if you publish only in, say, Italian, no one around the world is going to read you anyway (even if your work is good).

When these people apply for jobs or grants in their own countries, they are likely to be evaluated by other people who made their whole careers publishing mostly in their native languages in their local journals.  Thus, e.g., Italian evaluators are quite happy to count, say, an article in Rivista di Filosofia just as much as an article in Philosophical Review.  And the system perpetuates itself. 

Given the difficulty of publishing in good journals, this system actually creates incentives against publishing in good, international journals:  other things being equal, those who devote their efforts to publishing in international journals will publish less than those who publish in local journals, and then they will be at a disadvantage.

Enters the European Science Foundation.  By creating a ranking of journals based on international reputation, the ESF is putting long-term pressure on the relevant European academic communities to break their bad habits.  With these rankings, the ESF is saying, “if you guys want to keep counting an article in Rivista di Filosofia just as much as an article in Philosophical Review, knock yourself out, but stop pretending to be intellectually honest”.  (By the way, Rivista di Filosofia, as far as I know, is actually one of the best Italian philosophy journals.)

Will this change anything?  Probably not in the short run.  But eventually, we hope…

Update:  For more information on ERIH, here is the ESF FAQ sheet.

5 Comments

  1. Hi Gualtiero,

    thanks for posting the interesting lists. As one of those who tries to publish not only in local (i.e. italian) journals – but publishing on them as well so to have a good balance between academic needs and intellectual aspirations – I must say that I have nevertheless the idea that when a paper is submitted from an unknown italian university, the evaluation time tends to infinite. I had experience of one year and a half, even two years for getting a reply. I really don’t know if this is normal, but the impression is that, on the average, papers coming from Us, Uk or australian universities receive a different processing treatment.
    best

    Simone

  2. gualtiero

    Simone,

    Sorry to hear how long it took you to get a response. I hope it’s not true that journals treat authors from different countries in different ways. I can tell you that although I live and work in the US, I’ve had several similar experiences (over a year of wait). I would recommend the following: (1) submit only to journals known to respond within reasonable amounts of time (cf. the philosophy journal wiki) and (2) write to the editor after three months or so to ask whether they have heard from referees; if they haven’t heard, editors will generally send a reminder to the referee; repeat (2) until you get a decision.

  3. J. F. Humphrey

    Why are we forbidden from seeing the lists? When I click on the links to the lists, I end up at a page that says that I am forbidden from access.

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