Release of revamped Journal Citations Report: how did the ranking of sociology journals change?

Considerable intrigue surrounded the release of this year’s Journal Citations Report (JCR) by Clarivate. Significant changes had been announced for this new edition, which incorporates around 9,000 additional journals to the official Journal Impact Factor (JIF) metric. Until today, the JIF had been reserved to around 12,000 journals. In particular, those journals indexed in the Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI) and the multidisciplinary Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) were assigned official JIFs for the first time (but, confusingly, not ranks, quartiles or percentiles, which will arrive in next year’s edition).

This being said, the number of journals in the sociology category within the “main” Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) 2022 edition actually remained stable (it moved from 150 to 149 and has oscillated between 147 and 150 since the 2017 edition). At the same time, the lowest ranked journal in the first quartile (Q1) in this year’s edition has an impact factor of 3.0 whereas the corresponding position had a factor of 3.2 last year. In short, after several editions of increased raw JIFs, the average citation counts have slightly gone down this year.

Let us look at some notable “winners” and “losers”. We can see various benchmark journals slipping a bit. The JIF of the American Sociological Review’ (ASR) decreased from 12.4 to 9.1, the American  Journal of Sociology from 4.8 to 4.4, Social Problems from 5.4 to 3.2, and Sociological Science from 6.3 to 3.4.

Also the European Sociological Review took a dip (from 4.1 to 3.2), similar to the Socio-economic Review (from 4.1 to 3.7), and Sociology of Education (from 4.6 to 3.9) but all stay within Q1 range. Acta Sociologica experienced drop from 2.4 to 1.7, falling from Q2 to Q3.

In turn, journals such as European Societies (from 5.5 to 8.1) and Research and Social Stratification and Mobility (from 3.9 to 5.0) surged up the rankings. Indeed, European Societies went from steady Q3 rankings during more than a decade to now the number 4 ranked journal in the Sociology category (behind the always seemingly ill-fitting Annals of Tourism Research, and the steadfast Annual Review of Sociology and ASR). On a closer look, European Societies’ increased JIF is spurred specifically by German COVID-19 studies. Other notable risers include Gender & Society, Sociological Methods & Research, and Society and Mental Health.

Brexit may finally take a toll on the British sociology journals as well, with both the British Journal of Sociology (from 3.3 to 2.1) and Sociology (from 3.4 to 2.9) losing ground, marking the first time since the referendum that both are in Q2. Then again, the other BSA journal Work, Employment and Society manages to hold its ground.

Finally, the highest-impact sociology journal that is not ranked in the SSCI is Socius, with a JIF of 4.5. While ESCI journals have no official rank or quartile, this metric would rank within the top 15 and easily Q1. Again, this journal’s performance is noticeably boosted by COVID-19 research.

Overall, while this year’s JCR edition has brought some noticeable movements, the structural changes to the Clarivate corpus have not overhauled the journal rankings in sociology. Since few ESCI journals project to break into the Q1, we should also expect continuity next year when the integration of the different collections will advance further. With DORA being further implemented into research evaluation standards, the importance of rankings such as the JCR can be expected to diminish in the future. Given the continued growth of scientific production,  bibliometric systems will nevertheless remain relevant heuristic devices in the future.