I hate to keep highlighting silly articles in Inside Higher Ed, but they keep publishing silly articles, like Jeffrey DiLeo’s argument that humanities journals cannot be ranked because they’re
all unique and precious flowers too specialized:
Another reason for the roaring silence regarding the ranking of humanities journals regards the high level of sub-disciplinary specialization. In philosophy, there are journals devoted to general areas of philosophy (e.g., logic, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, etc.), to sub-areas of general areas of philosophy (e.g., medical ethics, business ethics, bioethics, criminal justice ethics, metaethics, environmental ethics, Buddhist ethics, etc.), to the work of individual philosophers (e.g., Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Charles S. Peirce, Martin Heidegger, Gilles Deleuze, etc.), to the work of historical periods (e.g., ancient, medieval, modern, etc.), to various philosophical approaches (e.g., phenomenological, analytic, pragmatic, Marxist, historicist, continental, etc.), and so on. Given the heterogeneity of types of philosophy journals, while there is a high chance of at least some agreement on the top 10 journals in each of the areas or sub-disciplines, there will be very little chance of much agreement beyond this.
Don’t get me wrong– I’m not going to argue that Impact Factors and other journal-ranking schemes are an essential and important tool. Frankly, I think they’re pretty silly. But the number and specialization of humanities journals is not a serious obstacle to applying one ranking algorithm or another to humanities journals, with about the same effect that you see in the sciences. (Namely, a general agreement with conventional wisdom about what the top 10-20 journals in the field are, followed by somewhat arbitrary rankings of lower-prestige journals.)
The reason journal-ranking hasn’t caught on in the humanities is more likely due to many academics in the humanities hating and fearing anything that smacks of mathematics than anything to do with the number of journals. Humanities types aren’t likely to buy journal-ranking services from the companies whose business is selling journal rankings, so those rankings are far less likely to be generated. Scientists, engineers and social scientists love (the illusion of) quantitative measures, so they’re a much better market.