In August 2021, the Australian Political Studies Association (APSA) executive decided that it would undertake a review of the association’s journal list in 2022. This maintained the established pattern of 3-yearly reviews (previous ones having taken place in 2019, 2016, and 2013). The intention of the list is to help mitigate the judging of political science journals by university administrators and others, often solely on the basis of impact factors. It is also designed to serve as a guide for scholars, especially Early Career Researchers, when considering where to submit their work. Surveys of Australia-based political scientists have shown broad support for the list (Gauja and van Ham 2017; McDonnell and Morgenbesser 2019). While we believe the list serves a useful purpose, we do wish to stress that scholars or universities evaluating the quality of journals or articles should never rely on just one source of information, be it this list or other measures.
2022 Review Committee
A journal list review committee was established in early 2022 and approved by the APSA executive. The committee deliberately included scholars from different universities, working in distinct subfields of the discipline, and using a range of methodologies in their research. The four Australia-based members were Katrine Beauregard (Australian National University), Selen Ercan (University of Canberra), Shahar Hameiri (University of Queensland), and Duncan McDonnell (Griffith University). Will Jennings (University of Southampton) took on the role of external international expert.
1. Call for submissions (21 May -11 July)
On 21 May, an email inviting submissions to the review committee was sent out to APSA members and relevant Heads of Schools/Departments across the country. The submission information was also placed on the APSA website and publicised on social media. The text explained that:
(a) 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;
(b) submissions regarding individual journals should provide multiple types of evidence;
(c) to facilitate the transparency of the process, all submissions needed 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 seek further information if required, collate the submissions, and then distribute them to the rest of the committee.
The submission process was open for 9 weeks and closed on 11 July. The committee received submissions from 1 institution (Christian Reus-Smit on behalf of University of Queensland), 3 journals (Australian Journal of Public Administration; Contemporary Security Policy; Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs), and 15 individuals: Katie Attwell (University of Western Australia); Azad Singh Bali (Australian National University); Tobias Ide (Murdoch University); Benjamin Isakhan (Deakin University); Jim Jose (University of Newcastle); Robyn Eckersley (University of Melbourne); Ellie Martus (Griffith University); Duncan McDonnell (Griffith University); Joshua McDonnell (University of Western Australia); Susan Park (University of Sydney); Sarah Phillips (University of Sydney); Adam Simpson (University of South Australia); Lian Sinclair (Murdoch University); Sam Wilkins (RMIT University); Fengshi Wu (University of New South Wales).
In addition, submissions were received from the following groups of individuals: (1) Andrea Carson (La Trobe University), Glenn Kefford (University of Queensland), Benjamin Moffitt (Australian Catholic University) Ariadne Vromen (Australian National University); (2) Benjamin Isakhan, (Deakin University), Dara Conduit (University of Melbourne), Jessie Moritz (Australian National University), Sarah Phillips (University of Sydney), Shahram Akbarzadeh (Deakin University), Benjamin MacQueen (Monash University), Naser Ghobadzadeh (Australian Catholic University), Niamatullah Ibrahimi (La Trobe University), Raihan Ismail (Australian National University), Ihsan Yilmaz (Deakin University); (3) Katrin Travouillon (Australian National University), Nicolas Lemay-Hébert (Australian National University).
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 an assessment of journals that were not present on the APSA list but did appear on the Clarivate Impact Factor lists for relevant fields such as Public Administration, International Relations, and Political Science.
2. Committee meetings (August-September 2022)
The committee held online meetings, 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 it faced in doing so was whether journals were sufficiently relevant to the discipline. The committee members therefore looked at the journals’ mission statements, the extent to which scholars from the discipline are included on editorial boards, and the contents of recent issues when judging whether this condition was met. At the end of that process, the committee added 52 new journals to the list. It also removed 13 journals which either had ceased to exist or whose subject-matter is clearly not political science.
It is worth noting that there were a number of new journals proposed which, after considerable information-gathering and deliberation, the committee decided not to include on the list. There are various reasons for this. Firstly, the committee wants to emphasise that its decision not to incorporate these journals has nothing to do with assessments of quality, but simply reflects our collective view that in some cases, the proposed journals do not sit easily on a list of political science journals. For example, the editorial boards of many include few or no members from our discipline. Similarly, while they may regularly publish articles that can be considered ‘political science’, these articles are consistently a minority of the total articles in each issue. In this context, we also wish to stress that, in our view, if a scholar from political science publishes in an interdisciplinary journal that has a strong impact factor or other metrics, we do not believe their career will be penalised by the mere fact that the journal does not appear on the APSA list.
Secondly, given that one of the purposes of the APSA list is to defend political science journals from questionable evaluations by other disciplines (see, for example, the patchy and erratic rankings of politics journals on the Australian Business Deans Council list), we must balance respect for interdisciplinary work with the need to recognise the disciplinary boundaries of our own list. Moreover, due to the limits of the A* and A bands, including top journals from other, cognate, disciplines would inevitably drag down the ranking of journals which are mostly composed of articles by political scientists. The only way to avoid this would be to include a large number of journals from other disciplines in the list across all ranking levels (i.e. thus increasing the numbers of politics journals we could include in the higher bands), which would in turn make the APSA ranking unworkable.
Having decided which new journals should be added to the list, the committee then proceeded to rank them. 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 metrics, principally SJR score and IF. 6 new journals were ranked as A, 9 as B, and 37 as C.
Having ranked the new journals, the committee then considered the submissions for promotions and retentions. In its deliberations, it reflected on the cases made by individual submissions. It decided to promote one journal to A*, 10 journals to A, and 6 journals to B. 4 journals were demoted: two from A to B, and two from B to C.
It is impossible 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. 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. Especially in the cases of proposed promotions to A*, the committee sought to have a full range of metrics at its disposal. It is therefore a pity that, while many current A* journal editors were willing to share their acceptance rates for the past three years with the committee, others did not reply to repeated requests for such data.
As in previous reviews, the committee also 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 continued the approach that, irrespective of their standing according to various metrics, it would not rank any such journal above level B.
Finally, the committee 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.
Updated list of journals
The new list comprises 703 journals, an increase of 39 on the 2019 list. This means that the number of journals in each band has risen, but there has been no change to the 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 2022 list contains 1 extra A* journal compared to the 2019 list, 7 extra As, 5 extra Bs and 26 extra Cs.
The revised list was emailed to all APSA members and relevant Heads of Schools/Departments on 9 September. It was subsequently approved at the association’s Annual General Meeting on 28 September in Canberra.
The 2022 APSA list can be downloaded here. Promotions are highlighted in green and demotions in red. New journals are highlighted in blue.