generalist sociology journals, a crowdsourced wiki ranking

xkcdimpostorsociology

In my long running quest to make xkcd’s parody real, yesterday on Twitter and Facebook I asked, sociologists to rank the generalist journals from best to worst. Practically, I circulated a wiki survey via AllOurIdeas (you can still take it here, but I won’t update these rankings right away) to that effect, stating the question as “Which generalist sociology journal is better? [Imagine evaluating a CV for a job.]” So far, users have cast 5870 votes across 189 unique sessions (though I haven’t dug into the details beyond that, so it’s possible that Fabio cast most of the votes). My goal here, as the prompt indicates, was to cue the context of glancing at someone’s CV and seeing one of the listed journals, though who knows how it was actually interpreted. Here are the rankings as of Thursday, 9/28, 8:40am:

generalistsocrankings 9 28.png

 

From All Our Ideas: “The score of an idea is the estimated chance that it will win against a randomly chosen idea. For example, a score of 100 means the idea is predicted to win every time and a score of 0 means the idea is predicted to lose every time.”

Parts of this graph really just show face validity more than anything else. ASR and AJS come out clearly on top, with Social Forces a clear third, but with some gap between them (though per the definition of score, one should not over- or under-interpret the size of this gap – with 16 journals, a score of 77 could mean “loses to AJS and ASR every time, loses to Social Problems occasionally, and beats everything else” and wouldn’t really tell you much about the size of the distance between the top two and SF). In general, though, this is consistent with Fabio’s longstanding claim that in Sociology there are two gold stars (AJS/ASR) and no silver stars (but rather a large collection of bronze stars including SF, SP (with SF pulling away from SP), and the top specialty subfield journals).

The interesting bit to me – and the motivation to run the survey – was to see the placement of the two new OA journals, and to see if there was strong consensus on the regional society journals. Sociological Science and Socius are both shiny and new, but not so new as to have not formed reputations. Here, it looks like Sociological Science sits comfortably among the tier or subtier right below SF/SP along with the top European generalist journals, while Socius is near the bottom. Sociological Forum comes out on top of the regional journals, though behind the generalist European journals and Sociological Science. As a caveat, my sampling “strategy” may induce some artifacts – my networks are high on Sociological Science.  Also, I just added Acta Sociologica (from a user suggestion) so its ranking may not be stable.

What do you all think?

UPDATE: Here’s the final spread, with over 10,000 votes cast. Not much change from the above. I have closed the survey.

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 8.10.38 AM

Author: Dan Hirschman

I am a sociologist interested in the use of numbers in organizations, markets, and policy. For more info, see here.

10 thoughts on “generalist sociology journals, a crowdsourced wiki ranking”

  1. I’m surprised by the high ranking of Social Problems. 20 years ago, very few people in my network talked about this journal or submitted papers there. It had a distinct “lower tier” taint, and in fact it wouldn’t have been considered a generalist journal.

    This could certainly be a function of my network back then. But, I also wonder if the rise of SP is due to the shift in many pockets of the discipline away from the search for knowledge for knowledge’s sake to, or perhaps “back to,” an overtly activist agenda and muckraking orientation in which one of the goals of the field is to expose new “social problems.” (I offer this as a hypothesis, not as a critique of SP or the direction of sociology.)

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    1. The rise in Social Problems is likely due to the rise in social movements as a big area of sociology. A lot of top social movements research gets published there. Mobilization is a top social movements journal; the other subfield outlets are Social Movement Studies and the annual Research in Social Movements, Conflict and Change. There’s quite a shortage of journals in social movements relative to how many people are in the field.

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  2. I see no sign of GENDER & SOCIETY in this list, despite its strong impact factor and challenging acceptance rate. The implication that “generalist” journals publish the work of most general interest is still constructed around the idea that gender and race are not general sociological issues but of special interest, since it is also clear that the “generalist” journals are tilted strongly to economic forms of stratification and quantitative forms of analysis.
    Anyone who looks at a cv and sees Acta Sociologica or Soc Inquiry as “better” pubs than ANY well run specialty journal (G&S, Demography, DuBois Review for example) is not serving either the student or the hiring committee well. I think the whole construct of a “generalist” journal is in itself seriously flawed.

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    1. “Anyone who looks at a cv and sees Acta Sociologica or Soc Inquiry as “better” pubs than ANY well run specialty journal (G&S, Demography, DuBois Review for example) is not serving either the student or the hiring committee well.”

      I’ve never met anyone who thinks that, nor was I claiming anything of the sort. As the post notes:
      “In general, though, this is consistent with Fabio’s longstanding claim that in Sociology there are two gold stars (AJS/ASR) and no silver stars (but rather a large collection of bronze stars including SF, SP (with SF pulling away from SP), and the top specialty subfield journals).”

      Journals like Gender & Society, Sociological Theory, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Science & Medicine, Sociology of Education, etc. are clearly excellent publications that seem to be what many or most candidates get jobs based on (myself included). I believe most rank them somewhere around the level of Social Forces or Social Problems, depending on the subfield and journal (as the reference to Fabio’s “bronze stars” idea implies).

      The purpose of this little experiment (in my mind) was to ask about the generalist journals as a group because 1) I didn’t have a sense of the reputational differences among the regional journals, 2) Sociological Science and Socius are new on the scene and I wanted to see how people rated them in comparison to these more established peers with similarly broad substantive mandates. Adding in the subfield journals would have made a more complete ranking of journals, but that wasn’t my goal.

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  3. As an old timer (PhD 1975) I think that Social Problems has long been seen as 4th, not recently risen to it. Traditionally, it was the favored “generalist” journal for qualitative people (yes also more applied people too but more for quals). I agree with the Dan Hirshman’s statement that this is of most interest to junior people deciding where to send something they are pretty sure won’t fly at ASR/AJS, or that has just been rejected from them (or from ASR since the 10 month wait for first decision that is becoming typical at AJS is becoming a real deterrent I think). I was happy to see Sociological Science up pretty high; I think the new model of Socius and Soc Science is sorely needed in the ecostructure, and that it is publishing excellent stuff. The question I always struggle to advise my students on (alluded to by someone else in the thread) is where on the food chain one should split off from generalist to specialist journal (whether the goal is how many people read it or impression on the vita). Obviously that would be MUCH harder to write a wiki for (too many branches). Equally obviously these results in NO way reply that journals a ways down this list are or are seen as better (or worse) than Demography, Gender & Society, ASQ, Criminology, etc etc. Paula England

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  4. I wonder how many times people confused “European Journal of Sociology” and “European Sociological Review”. I have no alternative explanation for the relatively high rank of the largely unknown and certainly even less read “European Journal of Sociology”.

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