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History journals in the new ranking proposed by Google

Google proposes a new ranking for scientific journals based on Google Scholar, called Google Scholar Metrics (GSM)1. It establishes a slightly different image from the one created by Thomson Reuters and “its” impact factor.

The top 10 publications proposed by Google in comparison to the Thomson Reuters Index2

Name of the journal Google Scholars Ranking Thomson Reuters Index
Nature 1 3
New England Journal of Medicine 2 1
Science 3 7
RePEc 4 not considered as a journal
arXiv 5 not considered as a journal
The Lancet 6 4
Social Science Research Network 7 not considered as a journal
Cell 8 6
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 9 11
Nature Genetics 10 2

The initiative is quite interesting. First, there is no longer one single reference but at least two. The monopolistic position of Thomson Reuters is slightly challenged. Second, with RePEc, ArXiv and Social Science Research Network, Google takes into account initiatives outside the medical and biological fields, which is beneficial for a broader image of what science is.

The limits of Google Scholar Metrics appear however quickly when I tried to use it for historical journals. In the English top-100 list, no historical journal is recorded. In the German top 100, one historical journal – Historische Sozialforschung – is listed at 33. And in  the French top 100, Genèses (48) and Annales (57) represent history. If you ask GSM for the most influential journals in history you get the following top ten:

  • The Journal of Economic History
  • Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
  • The Economic History Review
  • Explorations in Economic History
  • Journal of Natural History
  • Amsterdam Studies in the theory and history of linguist science series 4
  • Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • The International Journal of the History of Sport
  • Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part A

If I am quite pleased by the importance of journals dedicated to science studies3, it does clearly not represent the major trends in the field. So I wonder if Google Scholar Metrics will be another Google Beta project that will disappear in a few months or if it will be improved by a new magic Google algorithm.

  1. All the requests for this post has been done on 6 April 2012 []
  2. The Thomson Reuters Index I used is the one published for the different journals on Wikipedia (2009 or 2010). Google’s ranking covers articles published between 2007 and 2011 []
  3. Based on GSM, I will claim from now on having published an article in a top ten historical journal: Pieters Toine et Majerus Benoît, « The introduction of chlorpromazine in Belgium and the Netherlands (1951-1968); Tango between old and new treatment features », Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 42-4, 2011, p. 443–452. []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as an historian at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a social history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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