Counting journals that count

Wed 08 Apr 2015 11:34 AM

There is administrative pressure, for purposes of tenure and promotion, to list the top philosophy journals. Some disciplines have lists which are approved by their professional organizations. So people from outside the department are sometimes incredulous that philosophy doesn't.

But we don't. Letter writers for T&P cases tend to say this but then waive their hands at the relative status of various journals, possibly linking to a blog post or something.

I have recently thought that it would be good to have a general statement about this for administrative purposes, rather than putting something together on an ad hoc basis for every case. Below the fold is a draft of what a general statement might look like. It's an alpha version, and I am not confidently committed to other the contents or the form of presentation. So quoting it without that proviso is likely to earn my wrath. Talking about it as a possibly half-baked blog post is fine, though, and I'd appreciate feedback.

Journals that count in Philosophy

There is pressure to provide a ranked list of philosophy journals, indicating the gravitas which attaches to publishing in them. Doing so would involve mock precision, however, because philosophy as a discipline does not have such a list. This can sound incredible to a reviewer from a discipline which does have an established list or basket of respected journals, because many disciplines do have such lists.

The aim of this document is not to challenge the usefulness of those instruments in disciplines which have them. Neither is the aim to challenge the use of citation counts in general or to question the assumption that publication in prestigious journals is a mark of important scholarly work. The aim, rather, is to explain that philosophy does not have a standard basket and that there are serious challenges to hobbling one together.

This document concludes by reluctantly offering an incomplete and unranked list of quality philosophy journals.

Citation counts

Even accepting the usefulness of citation counts as a proxy measure for quality in the natural and social sciences, there are factors which make them less informative in philosophy.

First, the available data do a poorer job of tracking the field. Commercial citation databases such as Scopus and Web of Science, despite broadened coverage in recent years, still leave out important parts of the philosophical literature. The Google Scholar database errs on the other side, including blogs and on-line preprints.

Second, citation practices differ across the field of philosophy. Traditional philosophical writing involves sparing use of citations, in contrast to the practice common in many of the sciences of using citations to refer even to prior literature which is not discussed or engaged in any detail. The consequence is that interdisciplinary journals or philosophical papers with an interdisciplinary audience receive more citations that work squarely in philosophy.

These factors combine to skew the results of any ranking generated from citation data, which is compounded by the fact that drawing up rankings requires deciding what will and will not be counted as a philosophy journal. SCImago Journal Rank, which uses Scopus data, ranks Natural Language Semantics as the highest impact philosophy journal in 2013 -- although it is not a philosophy journal. The Google Scholar list of top publications treats Philosophy of Science not as a philosophy journal but instead under the odd rubric of `Epistemology & Scientific History'-- even though it is clearly a philosophy journal.

SCImago Journal Rank

Google Scholar `Top Publications - Philosophy'

Judgements of prestige

An alternate way to measure journal prestige would to survey philosophers about the relative importance or quality of various journals. Regardless of what one might think of the methodology, no such assay has been systematically conducted.

Several surveys have been widely referenced in on-line discussion, but they used haphazardly assembled lists of journals and unsystematically collected opinions from blog visitors. Brian Weatherson conducted one such survey but writes, ``I basically wanted to know what my friends collectively thought about various journals.'' Brian Leiter conducted another in 2013.

In 2007, the European Science Foundation released an initial draft of the European Reference Index For the Humanities (ERIH). That draft listed journals in a discipline like Philosophy and assigned them to Category A, B, or C. Their procedure was rather opaque. It was both unclear how the lists were drawn up and who was assigning the scores. In any case, the letter-grade categories were ultimately abandoned. The current version of the ERIH lists journals which are serious and responsibly managed, without any attempt to rank or score them.

Journal survey by Brian Weatherson

Journal survey by Brian Leiter

European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH)

Combined methods

Several philosophy bloggers have made composite rankings from the measures discussed above. Examples include the Brooks Blog Journal Rankings and Devitt's GSCD-index. Although composite approaches will correct for a bias present in one measure but not the others, it will not correct for systematic biases or recover information not present in any of the various separate measures. You cannot make a gold standard from a composite of crap measures.

Unlike other disciplines, there is little published work in philosophy to sort out the key journals. A search of Philosopher's Index for the phrase `journal ranking' returns just two hits: one about the rankings of business ethics journals, the other about education research.

The sociologist Kieran Healy has recently done detailed work work on citation in philosophy, but he focusses on four ``high-impact, high-prestige'' journals which he takes as given.

Brad Wray uses citation analysis to identify the most important journals in the sub-field of philosophy of science. He finds that the six most important journals are Philosophy of Science, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Journal of Philosophy, Synthese, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, and Erkenntnis. Surely these are significant journals, both for philosophy of science and philosophy generally-- but surely these are not the only significant journals.

Composite ranking assembled by Thom Brooks, 2011

Composite rankings assembled by S. Kate Devitt, 2014

Kieran Healy, A Co-Citation Network for Philosophy

Brad Wray , `Philosophy of Science: What are the Key Journals in the Field?' Erkenntnis, 72(3): 423--430, 2010. doi://10.1007/s10670-010-9214-6


The discussion so far has supported the claim that there is not a standard ranking of philosophy journals. Philosophers, for their part, get by without one. Yet there are administrative purposes for which people outside philosophy need to evaluate the publication record of philosophers. It would be misleading to pretend that there is a principled and discipline-standard list, but still you want something.

What follows is a list of 65 journals which should definitely count. Publishing in them is a scholarly accomplishment, and such publication should be given weight in a case for tenure or promotion.

This list should not be taken to be exhaustive. It does not include all the worthy journals. It especially leaves out important specialist journals. It does not include Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, identified in Wray's study as a key journal in philosophy of science. It includes neither the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism and the British Journal of Aesthetics, the premier journals in philosophy of art. It does not include premier bioethics journals, like the American Journal of Bioethics. Et cetera.

Still, it's something.

The list includes all journals which appear among the top 35 in Devitt's LGCSD-index, among the top 47 in Devitt's GCSD-index, or at a rating of C or higher in the Brooks Blog Journal Rankings. Brooks' and Devitt's lists were used because they are composites of the various citation and prestige rankings discussed above. Many journals appear on all three source lists, but absence from a particular list reflects the poverty of the underlying data sets. The LGCSD index, for example, combines the prestige rankings from Brian Leiter's informal poll with citation counts from Google Scholar; it leaves out journals which Leiter just happened not to think of when making the list for his poll.

Appendix: some journals that should certainly count

* Acta Analytica

* American Philosophical Quarterly

* Analysis

* Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie

* Australasian Journal of Philosophy

* Biology \& Philosophy

* British Journal for the History of Philosophy

* British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

* Canadian Journal of Philosophy

* Continental Philosophy Review

* Dialectica

* Economics and Philosophy

* Erkenntnis

* Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

* Ethics

* European Journal of Philosophy

* Hume Studies

* Hypatia

* Inquiry

* Journal of Consciousness Studies

* Journal of Ethics

* Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy

* Journal of Moral Philosophy

* Journal of Philosophical Logic

* Journal of Philosophical Research

* Journal of Philosophy

* Journal of Political Philosophy

* Journal of the History of Philosophy

* Kant-Studien

* Metaphilosophy

* Midwest Studies in Philosophy

* Mind

* Mind \& Language

* Monist

* Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic

* Nous

* Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

* Pacific Philosophical Quarterly

* Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

* Philosophers' Imprint

* Philosophical Papers

* Philosophical Psychology

* Philosophical Quarterly

* Philosophical Review

* Philosophical Studies

* Philosophical Topics

* Philosophy

* Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

* Philosophy and Public Affairs

* Philosophy Compass

* Philosophy of Science

* Phronesis

* Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society

* Ratio

* Review of Metaphysics

* Review of Philosophy and Psychology

* Social Philosophy and Policy

* Southern Journal of Philosophy

* Studies in Philosophy and Education

* Synthese

* The Monist

* The Philosophical Quarterly

* The Philosophical Review

* The Southern Journal of Philosophy

* Utilitas