How journal rankings can suppress interdisciplinarity. A comparison between innovation studies and business & management
Working paper: How journal rankings can suppress interdisciplinarity. A comparison between innovation studies and business & management.

Best Paper Award in the 2011 Atlanta Science and Innovation Conference (William Page Award)

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In the context of increasingly competitive assessments frameworks, academic institutions are crafting strategies to improve their performance, in particular pushing researchers towards publish in high rank journals. This raises questions over possible unintended effects of a shift in publication strategy towards higher ranked journals.

This study provides new quantitative evidence on how journal rankings can disadvantage interdisciplinary research during research evaluations. It compares the degree of interdisciplinarity and the research performance of innovation studies units with business and management schools in the UK. Using various mappings and metrics, this study shows that: (i) innovation studies units are consistently more interdisciplinary than business and management schools; (ii) the top journals in the Association of Business Schools’ rankings span a less diverse set of disciplines than lower ranked journals; (iii) this pattern results in a more favourable performance assessment of the business and management schools, which are more disciplinary-focused. Lastly, it demonstrates how a citation-based analysis challenges the ranking-based assessment.

In summary, the investigation illustrates how ostensibly ‘excellence-based’ journal rankings have a systematic bias in favour of mono-disciplinary research. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications of these phenomena and how resulting bias is likely to affect negatively the evaluation and associated financial resourcing of interdisciplinary organisations and encourage researchers to be more compliant with disciplinary authority.

Supplementary materials (maps in PowerPoint format):
  • Diversity, Coherence and Intermediation of each unit.
  • Disciplinary diversity of ABS rankings
  • Performance metrics of Units

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