Journal rankings: A response to the draft ABDC list

by Carol A Adams

Main points:

Leaving SAMPJ at a B is an anomaly. In our submission we advised that SAMPJ was outperforming 3/8 titles at A* on the 2016 ABDC list and 18/22 at A based on Impact Factor. Based on September 2019 CiteScore Tracker data SAMPJ outperforms all the journals upgraded to A on the 2019 draft list, all but two of the 26 journals ranked at A on that list and all of the journals ranked at B. SAMPJ’s SJR is in Q1 for both 2018 and 2017. There are two A ranked journals in Q4 and seven in Q3 and there are no other B ranked journals in Q1.

The trajectory of SAMPJ is clear and the anomaly is certain to become even more pronounced in a short space of time.

We have calculated that the mean number of revisions for accepted papers is 2.4 with 70% of accepted papers requiring two or three revisions, 10% requiring more than 3 and the remaining 20% of papers being accepted after one revision in the period since January 2017. That has to be put in the context of an acceptance rate of 9%. Further, due to its multi-disciplinary nature SAMPJ papers are reviewed by at least three reviewers or two reviewers and an Associate Editor prior to the Editor making a decision. This rigorous review process provides authors with the expertise of their peers and greatly improves the quality of our papers.

SAMPJ’s success is due to it filling a gap which other journals do not cover. SAMPJ is a multi-disciplinary journal and this is reflected in:
• the team of Associate Editors and the membership of the Executive Editorial Board and the truly international Editorial Advisory Board
• the papers published
• other A ranked journals citing SAMPJ papers
• the special issues addressing key contemporary, complex issues that require multi-disciplinary solutions
Recent examples of the latter are the just published special issue on Sustainability accounting and control for Smart Cities and the current special issue call on Cross-sector dialogue for sustainability: To partner or not to partner?

SAMPJ is unique in focussing on real world impact, something which national governments are increasingly interested in and the ABDC is advocating. All SAMPJ papers are required to articulate their contribution to social issues and the implications of the findings for practice and/or policy. SAMPJ’s mission is critical to addressing climate change and sustainable development issues which gave rise to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Adams and Larrinaga in AAAJ examined the papers on ‘engagement research in pursuit of improved sustainability accounting and performance’ since 2007 when all but one paper on the topic were in their AAAJ special issue. The detailed examination of the theories and methods used in such work (which is limited to a handful of journals) found that SAMPJ papers on the topic were unique in moving beyond simply critiquing practice to being “motivated by a desire to at least understand practice, and most often also to assess it and then to improve it or to provide a model/approach for others to follow”. Further, papers in SAMPJ were “trying to develop solutions using a range of theories and approaches’. Unlike papers in some of the other journals examined SAMPJ encourages innovation in theory and new conceptualisations and, facilitated by being multi-disciplinary, the adoption of theories used in other disciplines. In addition to SAMPJ papers having the potential for real world impact, we are also starting to report on that impact (see for example Gibassier and Schaltegger, 2015) and have a forthcoming paper on the process of a real academic intervention in Spanish policy development.

The comments in this submission are drawn from observations of the international Editorial Board on the two Skype for Business meetings held on 24th September. The strong, international Editorial Board meets annually in this way to accommodate all time zones and to ensure all disciplines are able to participate.

In sum:

  • The ranking of SAMPJ is an anomaly on the stated criteria and that will become more pronounced.
  • The multi-disciplinarity of SAMPJ facilitates innovative theorising and addressing complex issues of critical importance to humanity.
  • SAMPJ is unique in requiring articulation of the real-world contribution of research (potential impact) and embracing papers covering academic interventions in practice and policy.
  • SAMPJ papers go through a rigorous review process.
  • SAMPJ ought to be ranked A in the 2019 ABDC list.
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