Thursday, October 3, 2013

Archaeology Journal Impact Factors

An obscure little Internet start-up named Google provides journal impact factors in its Google Scholar Metrics pages. The impact factors for the Top 20 archaeology journals are interesting. (They report the h5-index impact factor. Here is an explanation of it.)

The journal with the highest impact factor is the Journal of Archaeological Science. I wasn't surprised by this when I saw it yesterday because I had previously looked up its impact factor when I applied for tenure. I do remember, however, being very surprised when I first learned that it was the most impactful journal. Perhaps the popularity or significance of the journal is driven by the fundamental nature of archaeological science to our scholarly enterprise. Or, it might relate to the journal's truly worldwide focus--in contrast to most archaeological journals which have a geographic or regional focus--as well as to its high frequency of publication--it's the only monthly archaeological journal I know of.The latter is relevant because the formula for the h-index takes into account numbers of papers, and so a journal that publishes more articles seems likely to have an advantage.

For me, the big surprise was the second journal on the list: Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. I've never heard of it. As recently as last week, I asked a paleoethnobotantist whether there was a journal dedicated to paleobotany, and I was unequivocally told "no." Like JAS, this journal seems to be truly international in focus and is now being published 5 or 6 times a year, while most archaeology journals come out quarterly or semi-annually.

The placement of Numbers 3 and 4 on the list, Anitquity and Archaeometry respectively, are no surprise, but I would not have guessed that The Journal of Cultural Heritage would come in at No. 5. Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised: public archaeology and heritage management are world-wide concerns, and even though I'm involved in them, it's still easy for me to underestimate their impact. Also, the journal covers conservation and other museum issues, which draw in a somewhat different and perhaps larger audience than pure archaeology.

Finally, I was a bit taken aback by American Antiquity's rank: No. 9. I would have it expected it to be higher.

Take a look at the full list. It might influence what you read and where you choose to submit manuscripts, especially since some universities are looking at journal impact factors in evaluating researchers for productivity, pay, and promotion.

PS. Note that by some weird coincidence Michael Smith recently wrote a very interesting related blog post that looks at the impact factors as calculated by Thomsen Reuters Web of Knowledge, which are very different because they use a different article and citation database.


  1. Yes, an interesting coincidence indeed! Archaeologists -- and all scholars -- need to start paying more attention to journal impact factors, citation counts, and the while field of bibliometrics. It is not clear how this will develop in the future, and we probably don't yet have a good understanding of the positive and negative impacts the trend will have

  2. Thanks to both of you for interesting posts. I searched archaeology journal ranks based on yet another metric: SJR ( The surprises were: American Museum Novitates, Tel Aviv, and Psychology of Music. All three ranked above American Antiquity. Am I out of the loop because I have never heard of them? Or is it just another example of they still have a lot of work to do on how rankings are calculated. There has got to be a better way, especially if university administrators will not stop using them!

    1. I've looked at the SJR rankings in the past, and they seemed fine then, but I checked them again after reading your comment, and you're right: there are some strange journals with high rankings while other highly ranked journals are missing. I looked up American Museum Novitates and it seems to be all paleontology, not archaeology, so it should not be on the list. I also looked for the Journal of Archaeological Science, but could not find it on the list. If you search just by journal title, it appears, and it has a high metric. Its SJR value is 1.37, which is higher than any on the archaeology list. I suspect there is a glitch in the web site's query language, or they've messed up the classification of journals. I know if used to work better. Perhaps someone should tell them.