Which are the top development journals?

In my research, I’m examining development journals. And I wanted to select the top journals in the field – in academic terms, that is – because I think this is where the publish or perish pressures will be highest.

In order to select a sample of the journals, I’ve considered three different systems for ranking journals: the ISI Web of Science (WoS) Impact Factors; the categories developed by the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) and the Dutch research school, CERES; and a ranking system developed by Richard Heeks of the University of Manchester, UK.

The ISI WoS ranks all academic journals. Although it is important to consider the ISI citation index, the WoS has no useful ‘development’ category to make it possible to identify relevant journals. The CERES/EADI ranking also includes all Social Sciences journals, not a sample of key journals. Indeed, there is considerable inconsistency in the different ranking systems. For example, only 3 of the journals in Heeks’ list of the top 24 journals has an A rating in the EADI/CERES ranking. Which is pretty strange, dont you think?

The Heeks’ approach has the advantage in that it comprises a list of core development journals based on a comparison of different ranking systems and a transparent selection process:

–  Selection was on the basis of development studies journals that appear in various other tables or lists.

–  Citation score was calculated by taking papers published in each journal in 2008 and identifying how many times each paper is cited in Google Scholar.  The average number of cites per paper was then divided by the average number of years since publication.  The score, therefore, generally equates to average number of Google Scholar citations per paper per year.

–  All papers published in 2008 were used if less than 20 were published; a sample of at least 20 building outwards from the mid-year issues was used if more than 20 were published.

I’ve used the Heeks’ list as the basis of the selection of the top journals because he has made a shortlist of the top development journals but then include only those journals which currently have an ISI ranking, which have an A/B ranking from EADI/CERES, and which have a development focus. This gives a list of 8 journals comprising:

Journal  Heeks’ list  ISI

citation score

CERES/EADI
Rank Citation Score
World Development 1 6.04 1.612 A
Journal of Development Studies 2 4.90 0.793 B
Development Policy Review 4 3.20 0.869 B
Sustainable Development 6 2.39 1.209 B
Development and Change  8 1.89 1.359 B
Journal of International Development 11 1.46 0.793 (taken from website for 2010) B
Public Administration and Development 14 1.21 0.783 B

I decided to exclude ‘Studies in Comparative International Development’, also selected using this criteria, because I think that it does not qualify as a development journal because it has a world-wide focus.

In conclusion, this list of 7 journals is probably where the greatest ‘publish or perish’ pressure is to be found. Burgess and Shaw (2010) in their 2010 article Editorial Board Membership of Management and Business Journals: A Social Network Analysis Study of the Financial Times 40 also made a selection of the top journals in the management field and they were able to justify their choice for the same reasons. We have excluded development economics journals from this sample because of their different citation pattern, dentified by Heeks, but also because the list currently includes the key, academic interdisciplinary journals.


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