Review of "In Praise of ‘B’ Journals”

By Ryan Rominger, Erik Bean

Original article located here:

In a recent article titled “In Praise of ‘B’ Journals”, Andrew J. Hoffman offers a unique perspective regarding publishing outside the mainstream ‘A’ journals most often noted as the most prestigious, academically rigorous, and tenure-qualifying. According to Hoffman, having professions which focus solely on publishing in ‘A’ journals creates a limited scientific atmosphere lacking in creativity and exhibiting limited outreach potential. Very few articles within these top tier journals are cited, and even fewer are disseminated within the broader professional and non-professional circles. Thus, overall, the impact of these articles could be considered quite minimal, even though the articles are considered ‘top tier,’ vetted, and prestigious. Hoffman poses that instead, it is important for researchers to consider publishing in ‘B’ level journals, non-academic journal, and even through social media in order to inject research results into the mainstream jugular, as it were. Through these other routes, a researcher may have more impact, and thus fulfill our collective duty to beneficence and social advancement.

“In Praise of ‘B’ Journals,” however, has impact beyond where one might consider publication. According to Nerad and Evans (Eds.) (2014), graduate education has been evolving over the past 15-20 years with regard to the assessment of graduate programs. Assessments are increasingly conducted by international organizations, as well as national and local groups which assess doctoral program inputs (such as student applications) – throughputs (such as doctoral coursework and dissertation processes – outputs (such as the number of doctorates graduating and time to completion) and outcomes (impact of doctorate students on larger knowledge base). These assessments then rank many doctoral programs, which in turn may be used by future students to choose the most prestigious schools. However, if part of the assessment of output or outcomes includes simply publishing in said ‘A’ journals, then the actual social impact of the doctoral program may be skewed. Hoffman proposes a revised awareness of ‘impact’ of research based not on publishing through the ‘A’ journal and number of citations over a 5-10 year period, but instead based on publishing the results through a variety of media which can then be consumed by a broader constituency. Additionally, if doctoral programs focus on training doctorates to only publish in ‘A’ journals, they may be ill-prepared to write for broader publishing outlets, and may not even view these outlets as viable options (possibly for fear of repercussion on potential tenure).

However, there may be on additional element which is important to note. The types of doctoral programs are increasing, with more research doctorates and professional doctorates training graduates to enter the workforce (Gokhberg, Shmatko, & Auriol, 2016). Those students, and even faculty in those programs, may be more inclined to publish research in venues which are aligned with professional organizations and expected consumption venues (such as social media or online web-based articles). In professional fields, the important element is delivery of innovative research results into the hands of those who will be using the information, not to other academicians. Therefore, use of ‘B’ journals and alternative venues may be appropriate and even desirable, and thus should be encouraged as appropriate. This is not to say that professional doctorates won’t publish in ‘A’ journals, but rather that those who do may be the exception rather than the rule.

Thus, it seems that Hoffman’s main thesis in “In Praise of ‘B’ Journals” aligns well with current movements in doctoral education. Additionally, Hoffman provides a sound basis for programs accepting, even encouraging, publication through means other than the esteemed ‘A’ journal so often seem as the pinnacle of academic standing. In a changing social media world where algorithms may yet be used to judge the level of scholarly community interaction such as those now employed in websites like ResearchGate and Google Scholar, the defense of ‘B’ journals should be one mode of ammunition in the academician’s toolbox of community and field engagement. After all, the field usually proceeds with hunches and is sometimes right, but often fails to acknowledge the academy whose scholarly research is often overlooked regardless of the journal’s category.

References

Gokhberg, L., Shmatko, N., & Auriol, L. (Eds.). (2016). The Science and Technology Labor Force:

The Value of Doctorate Holders and Development of Professional Careers. Switzerland: Springer.

Nerad, M., Evans, B. (Eds.). (2014). Globalization and Its Impacts on the Quality of PhD

Education: Forces and Forms in Doctoral Education Worldwide. Rotterdam, Netherlands:

Sense Publishers/Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education.

Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | April 5, 2017 7:30 am MST

Thanks for highlighting this, Ryan and Erik.

My doctorate is in business strategy, and I've always considered Michael E. Porter, a very famous strategist at Harvard responsible for many foundational theories and frameworks, the classic example of how to be an impactful researcher.  Porter publishes best selling business books!  He also shares his research in academic journals and in the practitioner press.  A look at his publications profile is a rich example of the value of reaching out to the all those who you believe would benefit from your work.  http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=6532&facInfo=pub.

As a fun aside, Michael Porter had been the dissertation chair for one of my professors at Boston University, Sushil Vachani, and came as a guest professor for one of our doctoral seminars (there  were maybe six of us in the class).  It was a wonderful treat!

Robert Vecchiotti's picture Robert Vecchiotti | April 5, 2017 11:49 am MST

An interesting dialog about sharing information with the wider community of scholars and practitioners. As a practitioner I found your review enlightening and encouraging. Enligtening in that scholars are reaching out in different venues to not only summarize basic research but also explain it's practical significance and for whom the research is directly applicable. That enhances the dialogue between scholars and practitions. I'm encouraged as a practitioner who actively participates in expanding the applications and in suggesting new ideas and concepts for further study. Professional associations like the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists (SIOP) began several years ago an active dialogue in its newletters, other informational publications, and its annual meetings. It has increased the significance of the basic research and the ability of practitioners to have a stronger basis for their client recommendations. Thanks for sharing your review.

Robert Vecchiotti's picture Robert Vecchiotti | April 5, 2017 11:51 am MST

An interesting dialog about sharing information with the wider community of scholars and practitioners. As a practitioner I found your review enlightening and encouraging. Enligtening in that scholars are reaching out in different venues to not only summarize basic research but also explain it's practical significance and for whom the research is directly applicable. That enhances the dialogue between scholars and practitions. I'm encouraged as a practitioner who actively participates in expanding the applications and in suggesting new ideas and concepts for further study. Professional associations like the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists (SIOP) began several years ago an active dialogue in its newletters, other informational publications, and its annual meetings. It has increased the significance of the basic research and the ability of practitioners to have a stronger basis for their client recommendations. Thanks for sharing your review.

Erik Bean's picture Erik Bean | April 11, 2017 7:27 am MST

Hi Robert: Your response of encouragement about scholarly community interaction is noted. Agreed!  It is the level of interaction of assistance in understanding and conducting research that is just starting to be measured online. It was not too long ago when "The old boys network" would not take kindly to sharing so openly their research methods particularly to anyone not enrolled, working, or an alum of their school.

Erik Bean's picture Erik Bean | April 11, 2017 4:45 pm MST

Hi Lynne: The fact that Dr. Porter was a guest professor at one of our doctoral seminars speaks volumes for his scholarly community interaction. Let me add that his list of papers, book chapters, books, working papers, and presentations are awe inspiring. Sometimes, professors do not look back or remain captive to their peers or contemporaries. Interacting at events is one type of community involvement, but publishing within A and B journals another. The third piece to this community interaction puzzle is embeded in scholarly social networks like Google Scholar, ResearchGate, and Academia.edu. These sites now using algorithms and labeling scholars with their interaction number. Thank you for sharing! 

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