Brace for Impact (Factor): Environmental Politics continues to shine…

Editor John Meyer comments on what the journal’s impressive rankings can and cannot tell us.

The 2021 Web of Science Journal Citation Report (JCR) has now been released. This report includes some of the most widely discussed journal metrics: impact factor and a ranking of journals within fields. The report solidifies Environmental Politics’ recognition as a top-ranked international journal. 

Our journal’s impact factor has risen dramatically, from 4.32 to 6.71. This year, the journal ranked 8th of 322 political science journals and 11th of 172 environmental studies journals. That represents a substantial rise in our rankings in environmental studies (from 21st last year), while a modest decline from last year’s dizzying 3rd place ranking in political science. 

What seems clear from this report is that Environmental Politics is among a small group of journals in these fields that are consistently the most cited. This is consonant with our commitment to — and pride in — publishing important and cutting edge work. The exceptional impact factor also means that academic authors can submit their very best work to the journal, confident that their universities will recognize us as a leading venue for scholarship in their field. 

All that said, there are reasons to be cautious about this year’s report and about the JCR in general. 

First, the methodology of calculating impact factor — across all fields — changed this year to include citations published in ‘early access’ articles. This appears to have differential effects across journals and fields, making apples-to-apples comparisons with past years difficult. 

Second, relying upon impact factor — or any such metric — as a proxy for the overall quality or contribution of a journal is always problematic. In Environmental Politics’ case, our relatively recent commitment to the inclusion of voices and perspectives from around the world reflects both the values of the editorial team and the conviction that doing so is vital to the understanding of environmental politics. Yet it remains to be seen whether this will help or hurt our journal metrics. Our commitment was made easier, knowing that we were doing so from a position of journal strength. But it was not made based on any calculation that it would boost these metrics. Only time will tell. 

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