About Archaeology Journal Publishing V

Posted on May 23, 2011

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After running the numbers I have determined that there is no correlation between archaeology journal prices and the Thomson Reuter’s Journal Impact Factors (TRJIF). Leading me to conclude that ether commercial publishers are over pricing their journals or that TRJIF is not an accurate representation of journal quality.

The TRJIF is a measurement of the average citation rate of an article will receive in a specific journal over a two year period. It is a common metric used to estimate the prestige/quality of a journal. Presumably, the higher the TRJIF ranking the better the journal is. This is based on the assumption that quality/important/cutting edge research gets cited more than lower quality research. Since journals decide what they publish the thought is that higher quality journals will publish higher levels of research, that gets cited more often, and thus have a higher TRJIF score.

In my past post I discussed how commercial publishers charge 300-600% higher prices than non-commercial publishers depending on how the price is measured, per-journal or per-journal-page. A quite outrageous amount and one that needs to be justified. Since commercial journals do not deliver any higher quality physical product, (paper, on-line access, editorial board, etc) than non-commercial publishers, they justify these high prices on the quality of research they are delivering.

Publishers will tell you that this is because their journals are more prestige, which equates to the idea that this equals the best research, they can charge more. A basic supply and demand equation with the quality of research being traded.

The way to test this assumption would be to see if there is a correlation between the supposed measurement of this quality and the price of this research. Since, publishers use the TRJIF as an indication of the quality of their journals this seemed like the perfect tool to measure with.

I examined the Thomson Reuter’s citation report for archaeology journals. Unfortunately, the coverage is sparse with only 12 archaeology journals from my list of journals (Table 1).

Table 1: Archaeology Journals Covered by TRJIF 2009

Journals Journal Impact Factor
American Antiquity 1.5
Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 0.0
The Journal of the Polynesian society 0.4
Archaeology in Oceania 0.647
International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 0.663
Journal of Material Culture 0.7
Antiquity 1.065
Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 1.097
Geoarchaeology 1.176
Archaeometry 1.355
Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 1.667
Journal of Archaeological Science 1.847

These impact factors were then compared against the cost of the journals and the cost per page of each journal (Figure 1 and 2). Looking at the graphs you can see that there is almost no correlation between cost and citation rates of journals. When it comes to cost per page there is a significant negative correlation indicating that as price goes up quality goes down.

Cost of Journal and Impact Factor

Cost per page and Impact Factor

Cost per page and Impact Factor

Two possible conclusions can be drawn from these results: one, commercial publishers are wrong about their pricing practices OR  TRJIF does not actually measure journal quality. Interesting results ether way.

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