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Starry-eyed: journal rankings and the future of logistics research
This is a polemical paper challenging both the principle and practice of journal ranking. In recent years academics and their institutions have become obsessive about the star‐ratings of the journals in which they publish. In the UK this is partly attributed to quinquennial reviews of university research performance though preoccupation with journal ratings has become an international phenomenon. The purpose of this paper is to examine the arguments for and against these ratings and argue that, on balance, they are having a damaging effect on the development of logistics as an academic discipline.
The arguments advanced in the paper are partly substantiated by references to the literature on the ranking of journals and development of scientific research. A comparison is made of the rating of logistics publications in different journal ranking systems. The views expressed in the paper are also based on informal discussions with numerous academics in logistics and other fields, and long experience as a researcher, reviewer and journal editor.
The ranking of journals gives university management a convenient method of assessing research performance across disciplines, though has several disadvantages. Among other things, it can skew the choice of research methodology, lengthen publication lead times, cause academics to be disloyal to the specialist journals in their field, favour theory over practical relevance and unfairly discriminate against relatively young disciplines such as logistics. Research evidence suggests that journal ratings are not a good proxy for the value and impact of an article. The paper aims to stimulate a debate on the pros and cons of journal rankings and encourage logistics academics to reflect on the impact of these rankings on their personal research plans and the wider development of the field.
The review of journal ranking systems is confined to three countries, the UK, Germany and Australia. The analysis of journal ranking was also limited to 11 publications with the word logistics or supply chain management. The results of this review and analysis, however, provide sufficient evidence to support the main arguments advanced in the paper.
The paper asserts that the journal ranking system is encouraging a retreat into ivory towers where academics become more interested in impressing each other with their intellectual brilliance than in doing research that is of real value to the outside world. Many logistics academics are concerned about the situation and trends outlined in this paper, but find it very difficult to challenge the prevailing journal ranking orthodoxy. This paper may give them greater confidence to question the value of the journal ranking systems that are increasing dominating academic life.
The arguments advanced in this paper were updated in a keynote address delivered to the annual conference of the Logistics Research Network in September 2015.
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