APSA Preferred Journal List Review 2019

24 September, 2019


In February 2019, the Australian Political Studies Association (APSA) executive decided to retain and update the association’s journal list. The main reasons for this were: (1) The list can help mitigate the judging of political science journals by university administrators and others, often solely on the basis of impact factors; (2) A 2017 survey of Australia-based political scientists by Anika Gauja (University of Sydney) and Carolien van Ham (University of New South Wales) found that a clear majority supported APSA maintaining the journal list; (3) A similar survey that year by Lee Morgenbesser (Griffith University) and Duncan McDonnell (Griffith University) found that most respondents considered the list useful as a guide for where to submit articles; (4) Previous revisions of the list had been published at three-year intervals in 2013 and 2016, so a 2019 revision was appropriately timed.

2019 Review Committee

A journal list review committee was established over the course of March-May 2019 and approved by the APSA executive. The committee deliberately included scholars from different universities, at different career levels, working in different subfields of the discipline, and using different methodologies in their research. The four Australia-based members were Selen Ercan (University of Canberra), Shahar Hameiri (University of Queensland), Duncan McDonnell (Griffith University), and Annika Werner (Australian National University). Will Jennings (University of Southampton and UK Political Studies Association Lead on Research & Impact, 2014-2019) accepted an invitation to participate as an external international expert.

Review Process

1. Call for submissions (28 May-15 July)

On 28 May, an email inviting submissions to the review committee was sent out to academics across Australia, including not only those in Political Science departments, but also scholars working on political science topics in other departments. The submission information was also placed on the APSA website and publicised on social media. The text explained that:

(a) the committee would only make decisions about promotions of journals based on submissions;

(b) the overall shares of A* journals (5% of the total), A (15%), B- (30%), and C (50%) would be kept constant, as per previous revisions;

(c) submissions regarding individual journals should provide multiple types of evidence;

(d) to facilitate the transparency of the process, all submissions had to be accompanied by a declaration of interests and the names of all submitters would be made public;

Submissions were to be sent to Duncan McDonnell, who would collate them, have them fact-checked by a Research Assistant at Griffith University, and then distribute them to the rest of the committee.

The submission process was open for 6 weeks and closed on 15 July. The committee received submissions from two institutions (Benjamin Isakhan on behalf of Deakin University and Christian Reus-Smit on behalf of University of Queensland), three journals (Australian Journal of Politics and History; Democratic Theory; Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs), one association (Asian Studies Association of Australia), and four individuals (Miriam Bankovsky, Glenn Kefford, Adrian Little, Susan Park).

The committee members also proposed a series of new journals to consider for inclusion in the list, based on their knowledge of the discipline and the results of the 2017 McDonnell-Morgenbesser survey (which had invited suggestions of potential new journals from Australia-based academics working on themes relevant to Political Science).

2. Committee meetings (30 July-30 August)

The committee held four Skype meetings between 30 July and 30 August, in addition to regular group discussions via email.

The first task of the committee was to decide which new journals to include in the list. The main question was whether journals contained sufficient material relevant to the discipline. The committee members therefore looked at the journals’ mission statements, editorial boards and contents of recent issues when judging whether this condition was met. At the end of that process, the committee included 62 new journals on the list. It also removed two journals that had ceased to exist.

The committee then proceeded to rank the new journals. To do so, it used a range of available metrics along with its collective knowledge of specific journals’ standing in the field. The metrics included different types of impact factors, SCImago SJR, H-Index, and percentage of articles cited. 12 new journals were ranked as A, 12 as B, and 38 as C. While most decisions were unanimous, in a small number of cases, the committee relied on the judgement of the external expert.

During this process, the committee faced the issue of how to rank journals which do not use standard peer-review procedures and/or are not open for submission, such as ‘invitation-only’ journals. The committee decided that, irrespective of their standing according to various metrics, it would not rank any such journal above level B.

Having ranked the new journals, the committee considered the submissions for promotions and retentions. In its deliberations, it reflected on the cases made by individual submissions. It decided unanimously to promote two journals to A*, 3 journals to A, and 3 journals to B.

It is impossible here to give a full account of every discussion about these promotions, other than to reiterate that the committee considered various sources of evidence along with the strength of each submission’s argument (which ranged from cases based on a single metric to more comprehensive ones). While impact factor and SJR were relevant metrics, the committee also gave due consideration to acceptance rates and the perceived standing in the field of journals (for example, while they did not have exceptionally high impact factors, both journals promoted to A* had acceptance rates in 2018 of less than 10% and are very well regarded internationally).

The committee also maintained the list’s long-standing policy of giving special consideration to journals produced by Australian associations, especially given the difficulties sometimes faced by scholars when seeking to place work that is based mainly on the Australian case in international journals.

Following the decisions on the rankings of new journals and promotions of existing ones, the number of A-ranked journals was higher than that prescribed by the 15% limit for this band. The committee therefore had to demote 5 journals to level B. Four of these decisions were unanimous, with the fifth being decided by the external expert due to a tie.

Updated list of journals

The new list comprises 664 journals, an increase of 59 on the 2016 list. This means that the number of journals in each band has risen, but there has been no change to the previous limits for each category (i.e. A* 5%, A 15%, B 30%, C 50%). Following the addition of new journals, along with promotions and demotions of existing ones, the 2019 list contains 2 extra A* journals compared to the 2016 list, 8 extra As, 16 extra Bs and 34 extra Cs.

In addition to being published on the APSA website, the revised list will be emailed to all APSA members, thus giving them sufficient time to consider it before it is put up for approval by the membership at the annual general meeting on 24 September 2019 in Adelaide.Selen ErcanShahar HameiriWill JenningsDuncan McDonnellAnnika Werner

The 2019 APSA list can be downloaded here. Promotions and demotions are highlighted in red letters. New journals are highlighted in blue.

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