I was on Mankiw’s blog today. He had a brag about the Quarterly Journal of Economics (published at Harvard, where he works) earning the number one ranking in a new journal ranking paper.
Harvard’s QJE is number one, natch.
For the unacquainted, “natch” is slang for naturally. Ugh. Anyways, that’s not the point of this post.
The article he linked (pdf download) attempted to construct and “ambition-based” ranking of journals. That’s not really the point of the post either. I perused the list of 69 journals they had selected, and realized that none of the eleven heterodox economic journals (which I will talk about in a post next week) were on it. I was a little miffed, so I decided to pick one of these journals (Journal of Economic Issues) and go through their methodology on the Web of Science and see what was going on. Well, as it turned out, at no point from 2001-2007 was an article in JEI written in those seven years cited in one of the seven “general-interest” journals. That would earn JEI a whopping zero on any rating with this methodology.
The authors of this new ranking acknowledge the subjectivity of their (and any) methodology, and patted themselves on the back for being so explicit about the reasons for each methodological choice. That’s well and good. However, it still leaves heterodox economics in the cold and with no necessary disclaimer. The methodology naturally excludes it.
Of course, this whole ranking business is a vicious cycle. Rankings like this one remove any credibility within the mainstream from journals like JEI. As a result, any self-respecting (or ambitious) author in the seven general-interest journals will think long and hard before citing one of these articles. So they get no citiations in the mainstream, etc.
Rankings-obsessed people like Mankiw have a very rigid definition of knowledge. I would obviously admit that knowledge is a social process; this does not mean it has to be a hegemonic one. Crowding out research with seemingly foreign methodologies is convenient, because as a mainstream economist, it allows you to not have to worry about the implications of this research.
The effects are not limited to journal rankings or citations, however. I’ll post next week about an article that details the marginalization of the heterodox journals and the implications for heterodox economics departments. Spolier alert: this vicious cycle has ramifications far beyond the world of journals; it affects economics as a discipline, both in terms of future research and future pedagogy.