The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The Political Economy of Journal Citations

October 15, 2010

I’m writing you from the ISSS/ISAC conference in Providence, RI, the yearly guns ‘n’ bombs gala thrown jointly by the Security Studies section of ISA and the International Security and Arms Control section of APSA.

Drawing a large crowd this morning was the roundtable on “How to Publish in International Security,” peopled by representatives from Stanford University Press, Georgetown University Press, the Journal of Strategic Studies and International Security.

Of course there were some standard nuggets of advice for aspiring scholars: 1) Make sure your paper is ready for publication first; 2) make sure you pick the right journal; 3) don’t submit to multiple journals 4) be persistent but polite in dealing with editors; and 5) beware of MIRVing:

“If you’ve put it out there on the Internet already we are less likely to see it as original work.”

But among these, the one that stuck with me was this point:

“Cite the journals you want to publish in.”

Now what caught my attention was not the suggestion but the rationale. It is not, Hoyt argues, because journal editors scan authors’ submissions or previous work for evidence of favorable citations but for a more mundane reason I wouldn’t have thought (and am still not sure whether I think) should enter into my citation practices:

“Journals depend on library subscriptions. Libraries are facing budget cuts and journals are a huge expense for libraries. As they decide which ones to cull, they consider factors like how often a journal is cited in the profession. Without library subscriptions these journals will simply disappear.”

The implication, aspiring writers, is that we should cite early, often and strategically in the hopes of maintaining diverse venues for our work. But whether or not this metric will make for the best scholarship who knows. Hoyt’s suggestion also implies that we should be using our libraries’ electronic journal resources rather than reading from our own subscriptions, so libraries can track our usage of specific journals.

But most of all, it’s also a healthy reminder that the political economy of our profession matters.

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.