Sociology at UvA in the Shanghai Ranking: Do we need more top publications?

University rankings are useless, I know, but still. The 2017 Shanghai Ranking is available, and as this is done by subject we can see how Sociology fares at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Are there lessons to be learned?

In the Shanghai Ranking, Sociology at UvA ranked 30th in the world. If one ranks on the basis of sub-categories of the overall Shanghai ranking, UvA-Sociology ranks 9th in the world on number of publications, 15th on international collaborations, and 26th on citations/impact. By the way,  another ranking, the QS ranking, ranks Sociology at UvA typically around place 13-14 in the world. Just that you know.

But… with regard to top publications UvA Sociology ranks only 72nd in Shanghai. That is much lower than on the other indicators. Two graphs are shown here, the scores on the indicators for top publications by total publications, and citations by total publications. I guess a department may want to be above the regression line in both graphs; indicating a relatively high number of top-publications, and well-cited publications, given the number of publications.

So what can we say on the basis of this figure? Well, general criticisms of the rankings set aside, it is evident that our department scores pretty good on total number of publications and citations to the work – slightly above the regression line and in the top-right quadrant. However, with regard to the number of top publications UvA Sociology scores relatively low, also given the total number of publications.

Given the developments in the past few years to focus more on the quality of the publications than on the quantity, one may wonder whether the UvA is ready for the new era. Should we publish more in top journals, or are we satisfied with the impact we currently have with our other publications?

Of course this depends on what counts as top journals. Well, the Shanghai Index is very clear about this. Only the American Journal of Sociology and the American Sociological Review count as top. No doubt these are fine journals, and many of us want to publish in them, but it is of course a bit of a short list… Anyway, there is much to say for impact, or else try to get a slightly longer list for Sociology. Say the top 20 journals in Web of Science, including, of course, the Journal of Consumer Culture, the Annals of Tourism Research, and the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.



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