All entries for Wednesday 20 June 2012

June 20, 2012

Journal awards

I have been blogging about journal quality, and one of the signs to look out for is whether a journal has won an award or not. Journal home pages might tell of any awards that they have won. But what awards are there for journals, and which are prestigious?

I had a look around on Google and on various society websites for awards, honours and prizes, and on journal home pages and publishers' websites, and have written about what I found here. If you know of other such awards or can say something about the value of any of those mentioned here then please do comment on this blog post.

If I had chosen a particular case study discipline and invested a lot more time, then I would have been able to develop an appreciation for the prestige and value of the awards. However, this is a brief overview of what it is easy to find out about, across the disciplines.

Publishers' awards

This is an interesting angle because it doesn't relate to the individual journal, and indeed a prize won by a publisher might be for aspects of its publishing work beyond the journal publishing part of its business. I wasn't looking for these but came across a couple:

An author who is assessing a journal's suitability for his/her article might be attracted to a journal from a successful publisher, but there is a lot more that can be said about what publishers do and can do for authors, beyond the scope of this blog post.

Journal title awards

  • Council of Editors of Learned Journal Awards, eg the CELJ 2011 Voyager Award, won by "Eigtheenth Century Fiction" by the University of Toronto Press, for its quality and originality of contribution to Eighteenth century studies, particularly because of its interdisciplinarity, according to the Project MUSE Spring newsletter. I note that the CELJ awards can only be won by journals who are members of the council (and there are 11 pages of members on their site, and that the CELJ are an "allied organization" of the Modern Language Association, which adds to the prestige of this award.
  • Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) awards, eg The ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation awarded in 2011 to the "Your Better Life Index" by the OECD, which is an interactive tool presenting statistics relating to countries. The ALPSP is "the international association for nonprofit publishers and those who work with them" and also displays a list of members on its site. Membership does not seem to be a prerequisite for a journal's eligibility for their awards.
  • The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) has a Legal Information group, which gives awards to legal journals.
  • The UK's Medical Journalists' Association give awards, including one for the Medical Publication of the Year.

Journal article awards

Also, there are awards for individual articles or papers rather than to whole journal titles, eg the Waste Management and Research journal has published articles that have won The James Jackson Medal from The Chartered Institution of Waste Management, in three different years.

Is an article award a sign of the quality of the writing and the research, or of the publication, or are the two inextricably linked?

Another example is the Lenssen Prize for the best paper on the teaching of philosophy, awarded by The American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT). The "Teaching Philosophy" journal refers to this award and describes itself as an award winning title.

Once again, I am interested in what the journal and journal publisher add to the value of the work that they publish.

Some journal publishers offer awards for articles that are published in their own titles, so if you find a journal with an award winning article, it is worth finding out who gave out the award. Some examples of this are:

Large publishing houses' awards for papers are likely to be valuable as indications of quality, given that they publish so much content. And the granting of such awards or sponsorship of others' awards are something that publishers are doing for academic authors.

Even amongst smaller publishers, there may be considerable prestige in awards, depending on the quality and prestige of the publisher themselves. This is where an understanding of the academic discipline or field is important.

Journal editors' awards

There are at least two categories of these to look out for on journal home pages: there are awards for editorship, and then there are academic awards.

The Professional Publishers Association (PPA) has Editor of the Year awards. The PPA is a UK trade association for the publishing industry, representing companies who publish a range of types of content, from magazines to commercial data but I looked at the membership list for academic publishers and didn't find the big players. PPA have "Independent Publisher" awards and "Data and Digital Publishing Awards", amongst others, and looking at those winners gives a clue as to the membership and types of publishers they represent: it's not a highly academic field, although the business information sources are undoubtedly going to be of use to academics in that discipline. Similarly, there are the British Society of Magazine Editors' awards, and the BSME are also less academically focussed: likewise with the American Society of Magazine Editors' awards.

Some publishers give awards to their editors, for example Emerald and the American Society of Civil Engineers have editors' awards.

There are also academic awards and prizes that an editor might be a recipient of, for his/her wider work eg The Journal of Quantitative Criminology tells of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences award given to its co-editor, Alex Piquero. Wikipedia has a good listing of major academic awards, with information about each of them. If a prestigious academic is the editor of a journal, is this a sign that the journal itself is prestigious?

Some publishers sponsor the prizes awarded by others, eg Elsevier sponsored the 2011 THE Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology award.

Journal Writers' awards

Similarly, writers can be recipients of academic prizes and there are writers' awards, eg the Association of British Science Writers' Awards for Britain and Ireland which aim to reward excellence in science journalism: the publications where these writers' work features include New Scientist and Nature, but also newspapers.

And there are publishers who also offer prizes to writers, like Emerald (see above for a link).

Another example of a writers' award is the Frank R. Smith award, of the Society for Technical Communication. This award "recognizes the authors of exceptional articles that appeared in Technical Communication during a calendar year." Technical Communication is the peer reviewed journal of the society.

The Frank R. Smith award is an interesting example because it's an award within a particular journal so as a sign of the quality of the journal itself, it has to be looked at in a different light. The fact that the journal makes its own awards could be a sign of the prestige of the journal, as with assessments of the publisher depending on whether it has won awards or whether it is large enough to grant or sponsor awards. Knowledge of the field or discipline would help to properly assess the value of any such awards as signs of quality.

My conclusion

When assessing the quality of a journal, and reading that a journal is "award winning", I would be careful to find out who granted the award, what it was for and whether the award is for the journal itself or for articles within it or people who work on it. All such awards might be signs of quality but they need to be taken in context.

On the whole, I'm not sure that authors are particularly concerned about who the publisher is and whether or not they are award winning. Authors might be glad to know of the existence of a publishers' own award scheme, or the publishers' eligibility for them to win a prize granted by others, in that they might win a prize but I doubt it will be a primary concern when choosing a journal for publication.

There is the Elsevier boycott which indicates that authors might be negatively influenced by who the publisher is, and there is a lot more to be considered on the matter of the value a publisher gives to a journal and its authors, and indeed whether or not the publisher themselves might be an indicator of the quality of the journal.

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