A synthesis of journal rankings in Agricultural Economics and Environmental & Resource Economics

Bartosz Bartkowski, Nils Droste, Robert Finger[i]

This text has been published simultaneously on tow Blogs: Agrarpolitik and Skeptische Ökonomik

Rankings of academic journals are often used as indicators for the quality and relevance of publications, and with that researchers and institutions (e.g. Kalaitzidakis et al., 2003[ii]). Such rankings may even serve as guidance especially for early-career researchers regarding where to submit their manuscripts. Rankings of this type do not substitute an in-depth quality assessment of publications and journals and their use requires critical reflection (see e.g. Laband 2013[iii]). Yet, they still provide valuable information. Next to various rankings based on bibliometric analyses such as the ‘Impact Factor’ (with different data sources and calculation methods), there have been several alternative ranking proposals in the fields of agricultural economics as well as environmental and resource economics. For example, Herrmann et al. (2011) proposed a survey-based ranking for agricultural economics; Halkos and Tzeremes (2012) use a data-envelopment analysis fed by bibliometric information to generate a ranking for agricultural, environmental and resource economics. Here, we present the first attempt to synthesize different rankings for both agricultural economics as well as environmental and resource economics (AERE). Though such synthesis cannot solve the general problems of journal rankings, we believe that it might increase the reliability and thus usefulness of the available information.

Method

We consider the following journal rankings which present different ways of ranking economics journals and have a certain level of authority in the field and/or are specific to our focus on agricultural and environmental & resource economics:

  • Kalaitzidakis et al’s (2011) ranking of economics journals based on 10-year citation counts of papers published in 2003–2008, from which we selected AERE journals[iv]
  • ICI Journal Citation Report 2017, where we used the whole section “agricultural economics” and all economics journals from the section “environmental sciences”[v]
  • Elsevier CiteScore 2017, from which we included AERE journals from the the section “economics, econometrics and finance”[vi]
  • RePEc aggregate ranking of economics journals 2017, from which we included AERE journals[vii]
  • Herrmann et al’s (2011) survey-based ranking of economics journals relevant for agricultural economists of the GEWISOLA (German-speaking association of agricultural economists), from which we selected non-general economics journals rated A or B[viii]
  • Halkos and Tzeremes’ (2012) ranking of agricultural, environmental and resource economics journals based on citation counts per paper until 2010, from which we selected journals rated as A, B and C[ix]

We combine these rankings in a Borda-ranking-like approach, i.e. by creating mean ranks.

More specifically, based on the above-listed sources we created a table with a list of journals and their ranks in each of the rankings. Because especially the Elsevier, but also the RePEc classifications are rather imprecise, we manually checked (by reading journal scope descriptions) whether the journals can really be classified as predominantly economics journals and retained only those that can. In the next step, we excluded all journals present in fewer than half (i.e. three) rankings. For each of the remaining 23 journals we calculated the mean rank to identify the top 10 for each agricultural economics (AE) and environmental and resource economics (ERE).

Results

 Agricultural Economics
Rank Journal name No. rankings Mean rank
1 American Journal of Agricultural Economics 6 4.67
2 Food Policy 6 8.67
3 Journal of Agricultural Economics 6 9.33
4 Agricultural Economics 6 9.67
5 European Review of Agricultural Economics 6 10.17
6 Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 6 12.83
7 Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 5 14.80
8 Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 3 16.33
9 Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics 6 18.33
10 Agribusiness 3 19.67

 

Environmental and Resource Economics
Rank Journal name No. rankings Mean rank
1 Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 6 2.67
2 Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 3 3.00
3 Ecological Economics 6 4.17
4 Energy Journal 5 5.40
5 Energy Economics 4 5.75
6 Land Economics 6 6.00
7 Resource and Energy Economics 6 9.67
8 Environmental and Resource Economics 6 10.50
9 Annual Review of Resource Economics 3 13.00
10 Marine Resource Economics 3 14.00

 Discussion

Next to the critical aspect of the limitations and use of such rankings in general, the here presented synthesis faces some caveats. First, none of the rankings we used was perfectly “tailored” for our purposes. In some cases, we had to identify among economics journals those that are genuinely focusing on agriculture or natural resources; this could be achieved rather easily in most cases by inspecting the scope description at the respective journal’s homepage. More challenging was the choice among journals focusing on agriculture or natural resources of those that can be classified as economics journals. What makes an economics journal? You can sensibly assume that if it has “economic(s)” in its name, it is an economics journal. But what if it does not? Another possible criterion would be the obligatory use of JEL codes, suggesting that we have to do with a genuine economics journal – but especially in heterodox economics, this is not standard practice (including one of the major journals on our list, namely Ecological Economics). For agricultural economics, the respective category in the Web of Science (i.e. ‘Agricultural Economics & Policy’) provides useful guidance. Nevertheless, we were forced to make subjective decisions based on our own experience in some cases, e.g. excluding journals such as Environment and Planning A or Journal of Agrarian Change.

Since we combined diverse rankings, which are not perfectly consistent with each other and exhibit some overlaps (most of them being based on some type of citation counts), the end result should not be interpreted as “carved in stone”. Accordingly, removing individual rankings leads to changes in relative ranks and in two cases (after removal of either ISI JCR or Elsevier CiteScore) Environment and Development Economics trumps Marine Resource Economics and enters the top 10 of ERE. However, by and large, we are quite confident that we were able to identify the major journals in agricultural, environmental and resource economics correctly. Moreover, note that our analysis is based on rankings that use historical bibliometric data and studies published some years ago, so that we cannot fully capture the recent dynamics in journal development. Thus, younger journals tend to be less well represented.

A further critical point is that we restricted our selection from similar rankings to different “classes”: A, B and C from Halkos and Tzeremes (2012), A and B from Herrmann et al. (2011) and any AE or ERE journals from Kalaitzidakis et al. (2011). The reason is that due to the different scopes of each ranking (respectively: AE and ERE journals, economics journals relevant to agricultural economics, economics journals generally), these restrictions yielded similar numbers of journals (around 20 per ranking).

Given recent debates about the monopolistic power of big publishing houses on the one hand, and about the problematic practices of open access (OA) publishers on the other, it may be interesting to look at the publishers behind the journals in our lists. Interestingly enough, the first journal on our list, JEEM, has recently ceased being the “house journal” of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economics after a controversy between the AERE and the journal’s publisher, Elsevier. As a result of that, the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists was founded, published by Chicago University Press and likely to enter rankings similar to ours in the near future.

Of the 23 journals ranked, six are published by Elsevier (5 ERE, 1 AE), five by Wiley (all AE), four by Oxford University Press (1 ERE, 3 AE). Three journals are published directly by the responsible Associations. Only one journal is published by Springer, the second-largest scholarly publisher worldwide (behind Elsevier and ahead of Wiley). There are no OA journals among the top journals in agricultural, environmental and resource economics. In fact, we are not aware of any OA journals in this area.

[i] Bartosz Bartkowski, Department Economics, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, bartosz.bartkowski@ufz.de / Nils Droste, Centre for Environmental and Climate Research, Lund University, nils.droste@cec.lu.se / Robert Finger, Agricultural Economics and Policy Group, ETH Zürich, rofinger@ethz.ch

[ii] Kalaitzidakis, P., Mamuneas, T. P., & Stengos, T. (2003). Rankings of academic journals and institutions in economics. Journal of the european economic association, 1(6), 1346-1366. >>

[iii] Laband, D. N. (2013). On the use and abuse of economics journal rankings. The Economic Journal, 123(570), F223-F254. >>

[iv] Kalaitzidakis, P., Mamuneas, T.P., Stengos, T. (2011). An updated ranking of academic journals in economics. Canadian Journal of Economics 44(4), 1525-1538. >>

[v] Clarivate Analytics. InCites Journal Citation Reports 2017. >>

[vi] Elsevier. Scopus CiteScore metrics for journals and serials 2017. >>

[vii] RePEc. Aggregate Ranking for Journals 2017. >>

[viii] Herrmann, R., Berg, E., Dabbert, S., Pöchtrager, S., Salhofer, K., 2011. Going Beyond Impact Factors: A Survey-based Journal Ranking by Agricultural Economists. Journal of Agricultural Economics 62, 710–732. >> (you find the ranking also here >>)

[ix] Halkos, G., Tzeremes, N. (2012). Ranking agricultural, environmental and resource economics journals: A note. MPRA Paper No. 36233. >>

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About Robert Finger

I am Agricultural Economist and head of the Agricultural Economics and Policy Group at ETH Zurich www.aecp.ethz.ch