APS Journals Rank Among Top Ten!

A PS’s flagship journal, Psychological Science, may still be a baby in the publishing world, but it already has a citation record that puts it eighth among psychology journals, and it has been at that top-ten slot since it was four years old! This ranking was based on a comparison (among 97 general psychology journals) of how many times on average the journal’s recent articles had been cited by authors of scholarly papers.

The ranking (by impact factor) is documented in the 1994 edition, the latest available, of Journal Citation Reports (JCR) of the Social Science Citation Index, published annually by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) in Philadelphia. (The 1995 JCR will be published in fall 1996.) The impact factor was derived by dividing the total number of scholarly citations in 1994 that referenced Psychological Science’s articles published in 1992 and 1993 by the number of articles published in those same two years.

William K. Estes, of Harvard University, and the founding editor of Psychological Science, was responsible for the journal during the time period on which the impact factor is based. Upon learning of the impact factor and being asked what contributed to the journal’s comet-like appearance in eighth position, Estes said a number of factors conspired to achieve it.

One was the psychological community. “There was a tremendous enthusiasm in the discipline at the prospect of a new general psychology journal that would begin pulling the increasingly splintering subfields together again along their shared scientific lines,” said Estes. “There was an outpouring of support from virtually every psychologist I needed to call upon in the early days of establishing this journal.”

“This is great news, for the journal and for the Society; it is a tribute to the efforts of Bill [Estes],” said Yale University professor John F. Kihlstrom, the journal’s current editor.

Concurring with Estes, Kihlstrom said, “I think the status of the journal also reflects an increased interest in general psychology. Our field can be fragmented so easily, with scientists in various subfields as well as clinicians all going their separate ways.

Psychological Science tries to moderate these centrifugal influences. And it started a trend, so now we have a number of such journals coming into existence Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, for example, and soon General Psychology Review.”

“But I also think the impact of the journal reflects a desire for the ‘short form.’ Articles in specialty journals these days tend to go on and on, dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t,’ and sometimes it’s difficult to understand why it’s all there. Psychological Science articles, like the articles in Current Directions and Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, are more focused, they get right down to business and leave you with a clear, concise, take-home message. There’s real appeal in that.”

No doubt Estes’s success in creating a much needed general psychology journal that is both readable and accessible to most readers was a significant factor in attaining this ranking. “Psychological Science’s impact factor makes it a formidable player among scholarly behavioral science publications,” said APS Director of Communications Lee Herring. “Most other general psychology journals have had decades to cultivate their impact on the discipline, but even our four-year-old journal, Current Directions in Psychological Science, is projected to be among the top ten in the 1996 JCR,” said Herring.

Too Young to Be Admitted

“Because impact factors are based on articles published in two previous years, a journal must have accumulated three years of citation data before an impact factor can be calculated and listed in the JCR,” according to JCR editor Janet Robertson. Current Directions, therefore, is not yet listed in JCR. But, there is a top-ten trend building there, too, according to Robertson. “If we assume Current Directions published about the same citation rate each year as it did in its first years, we can estimate the 1994 impact factor would have placed the journal about tenth among psychology journals.” Current Directions was only three years old in 1994!

How do these impact factors compare to the 217 journals in ISI’s seven other categories of psychology journals? Impact factors in the range achieved by APS’s journals would also place them in the top few, sometimes the top three, among the seven other categories of psychology journals covered by ISI (i.e., applied, clinical, developmental, educational, experimental, mathematical, and social). Psychological Science also ranks highly on an “immediacy rating.” The immediacy index indicates the average citation rate for the current year only for each article within the journal. It is a measure of a journal’s “hotness,” so to speak.

Who Notices?

These JCR rankings and ratings serve as a kind of “prestige measure,” which is noted by librarians, authors, publishers, and educational administrators and are used extensively by these groups in making decisions to purchase journals and allocate marketing dollars.

The JCR, a well-respected international publication, also publishes a “citation half-life” rating for each journal. Citation half-life indicates the number of years back in time that account for 50 percent of the total citations received by a given journal. Psychological Science, a relatively young journal by comparison, has a citation half-life 3.0 years, indicating that half the citations to the journal occurred in articles that are three years old or younger. According to Robertson, “cited half-life measures the chronological distribution of citations to a journal, which helps evaluate the currency or longevity of published articles … but it does not imply a particular value for a journal. Such figures may be useful to librarians in their collection management and archiving decisions.”

Estes’s advice for the future of Psychological Science? “This is very good news, but we should not rest short of obtaining the number ‘1’ ranked position.”

Look out Dallas Cowboys, here comes APS!

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