Thursday, August 12, 2010

Di Leo, Jeffrey R. "Against Rank." INSIDER HIGHER ED June 21, 2010.

The practice of ranking scholarly journals is widespread in the United States for just about every discipline except those in the humanities. It is one sign of the good health of the humanities that they have not caught rank and brand fever like many of the other disciplines in the American academy. Whereas one can readily find rankings of science or business journals, there is silence when it comes to rankings of humanities journals. Why?

For one thing, unlike in business and the sciences, where accreditation and funding are directly linked to publication in highly-ranked journals, in the humanities there is little accreditation and even less funding. If a business professor in an AACSB accredited program does not publish in highly-ranked journals, she does nothing to help her program stay recognized. However, if comparative literature professors publish in a little-known journal, they are neither putting their program’s accreditation at risk (even though some believe that they are putting their program’s reputation at risk) nor jeopardizing its funding (which is meager to begin with). The only real danger of the comparative literature professor publishing in a lesser-known journal is that it has a lower chance of being read.

Compared to other disciplines, where funding and accreditation are linked to journal rank, publishing work in the journal Comparative Literature (one of the more well-known journals in the field) as opposed to say the South Texas Journal of Comparative Literature (an imaginary little-known journal) is more a matter of preference than of professional necessity. I’ve been a journal editor now for almost 20 years, and in that time, I have only come across one person who refused to publish because he viewed the journal I was editing as not befitting his “stature.”

Another reason for the roaring silence regarding the ranking of humanities journals regards the high level of sub-disciplinary specialization. . . .

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