24 Feb 2010

In many different countries, academics are now formally assessed according to some kind of research quality assessment. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Research Assessment Exercise was most recently used for this purpose - with the new Research Excellence Framework now looming. This exercise, and others like it (such as the PBRF in New Zealand and the RAE in Hong Kong), take an approach to measuring research outputs that is increasingly quantitative - and often controversial.

In Australia, the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative - run by the Australian Research Council - is currently in the process of assessing the outputs of academics. A development here that has prompted much debate has been the ranking of journals according to a tiered scale: A*, A, B and C (click here for definitions). Before we look at a more detailed break-down of the figures, however, some more information:
  • The total number of journals ranked, across all subject areas, was over 20,000 - in fact, the spreadsheet has 20,712 rows of data.
  • There were 74 ranked journals in Human Geography, and 130 in Urban and Regional Planning - info here provided by John Lamp at Deakin University in Geelong.
  • Many journals fall under more than one subject area - this applies to Regional Studies.
  • In Human Geography, only 4 journals were ranked A* (one of which was Regional Studies!).
  • In Urban and Regional Planning, 13 journals were ranked A* (Regional Studies is also in this category).
  • The area with the most journals is Clinical Sciences (1,365), followed by Law (1,280).
  • Some journals are 'not ranked' - this applies to new journals which began in 2008 or later.
Now, finally, a couple of charts showing the distribution of journals in each category for both Human Geography and Urban and Regional Planning (data sourced from the ERA 2010 web pages).