Escaping the ranking trap: Innovative ranking system offers researchers more flexibility

An innovative, adaptable publication ranking system, called P-Rank and developed by Prof. Dr. Asvin Goel, Kühne Logistics University (KLU), is now available for the business sciences. Researchers can select the ranking criteria that best fit their publishing strategy. The goal: to offer them more options regarding the assessment of their output. P-Rank is now quickly gaining popularity in Europe and Asia alike.

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“The tool allows researchers to present a more differentiated view on their work to potential employers and funders in the research community,” says KLU’s Prof. Dr. Asvin Goel, who programmed the meta-ranking system, explaining his motivation. Rankings are valuable and important in terms of evaluating performance without the influence of any personal networks, he claims. But the great importance attached to rankings can make researchers feel pressured to adjust their publishing strategies to specific ranking criteria. “In extreme cases, researchers might abandon important research projects because they assume they won’t be able to publish their results in ranking-relevant journals,” he warns.

Ranking standings can make or break careers

Today, researchers’ academic careers greatly depend on how successfully they publish, i.e., on the number of articles they publish in respected journals. According to Goel, rankings can intentionally or unintentionally influence decisions regarding hiring, promotions or allocating research funding. Whether or not researchers’ performance is actually recognized can vary greatly, depending on the criteria used. Researchers who enjoy an excellent standing according to a particular metric may only achieve the same or even considerably worse standing than their peers if another metric is used. “Borrowing from the by now classic expression ‘publish or perish,’ this produces an unintentional side-effect, which is more like ‘publish and perish’ – if you publish in the wrong journals, your publication record may not be recognized in the rankings favored by your reviewers.”

Well-received among researchers

The alternative ranking portal P-Rank is currently extremely popular. In June, there were more than 25,000 visitors and the number of supporters increased tenfold to more than 1,000. The majority of site visits come from Asian countries. “These are countries that tend to receive comparatively little attention in the scientific community, which is largely dominated by the USA and Europe. We hit a nerve,” Goel explains. On the one hand, the system offers researchers global visibility; on the other hand, it allows them to highlight their own academic achievements, taking into account the particularities of their respective national research system, the number of co-authors and the timeframe. The latter aspect is especially conducive to achieving more recognition for young researchers. “The ranking tool’s adaptability is an important step toward escaping the ranking trap,” he concludes.

P-Rank: an adaptable publication-ranking system

P-Rank (www.publicationranking.net/) offers a range of established journals lists, helping scholars to gain recognition through their publications: the ABDC Journal Quality List (Australia), CABS Academic Journal Guide (Great Britain), ERIM Journal List (Netherlands), FMS Journal Rating Guide (China), Hcéres liste des revues (France), or VHB Jourqual 3 (Germany). More than 10,000 researchers are currently listed in the database. Users also have the option of supplementing their data directly.

More information: www.publicationranking.net