ZitArt – the first publication and citation ranking for economic geographers at universities in Switzerland, Austria and Germany
„I think geographers can make good use of citation data [...] as our `weapons'. This 'weapons of the weak' argument is based on the assumption that most university administrations and funding agencies tend to privilege the sciences (including medicine) and engineering and look down upon such social sciences as geography. This struggle for geography's legitimacy often happens in such deliberations as promotion, grant awards, and funding allocations. Here, I believe we can turn citation data to our advantage, provided of course that we know what we are talking about“. (HENRY YEUNG 2002, economic geographer and local organizer of the 2nd Global Conference in Economic Geography 2007 in Beijing).
Publications in national and international scientific journals in particular are more and more frequently taken as indicators of research performance. In contrast to external research funding, which is mostly interpreted as an input indicator of research performance, publications are more an output criterion. This is particularly true when these articles have been published under strong competition between the manuscripts submitted (i.e., significantly more articles submitted than accepted) and subject to a serious double blind review process. Many of these journal articles are subsequently cited by the scientific community, which is ultimately the best suited indicator of recognition of a research publication. The Web of Science databases, in particular the SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) and the SCI (Science Citation Index), which cover several thousand journals and monitor the fulfillment of certain quality criteria, are the most highly respected and most comprehensive source of data in bibliometric research for such journal articles and their citations.
Quantitative analyses of publication and citation indicators are very rare in economic geography, as for geography in general. They have not existed until recently for the German-speaking world. This is astounding for a discipline that describes itself as "heavy on reading", particularly as the data mentioned are publicly accessible and available to the user free of charge. In addition, publication- and citation-based indicators are becoming more relevant in view of the increasing need for the discipline to increase its own profile within the respective university (in competition with other disciplines) and outside the individual location in competition with other centers of (economic) geography throughout Germany and abroad. Many university libraries have copies of both the SSCI and the SCI, which gives every economic geographer the opportunity to "check the balance" of their (and others') articles and the articles citing them (including details of source, author, etc.).
A small team at the Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography, University of Hanover (Germany) consisting of Nora Hesse, Rolf Sternberg and Dennis Stockinger therefore undertook the not insignificant task some years ago of setting up a database of all economic geographers active at a university institute in Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria at a certain cut-off date, including their journal articles recorded in the SSCI or the SCI (not reviews, editorials, etc.), together with their citations. This database is suitable for various kinds of empirical analyses. It also lends itself to person-related analyses of publication output and the associated citations. Numerous other disciplines have been practicing this for a long time (cf., for example, the rankings in economic sciences, medicine, sociology) and they actively make use of it to enhance their positioning within and outside their respective universities.
The tables shown on the Website of the Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography (http://www.wigeo.uni-hannover.de/zitart.html) were the first ranking of SSCI and SCI articles and their citations by German-speaking economic geographers at the universities in the relevant countries at the aforementioned cut-off date. We have called it "ZitArt" (a combination of the German words for "citation" and "article"). Meanwhile five versions of ZitArt are available covering the reference years 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016. For each year and all ranking tables are limited to the first 25 places in the rankings; information on lower rankings available upon request. A separate text ("The methods behind ZitArt", in German only) gives precise information on the methods used in setting up the database upon which the ranking is based. The ranking itself consists of about 8-12 tables of which some are based on different publication indicators ("Author rankings by number of articles", in German only), some on citation indicators ("Author rankings by number of citations"), one based upon the Hirsch-index (in German only), and one contains a ranking of the most frequently cited articles by German-speaking economic geographers ("The article ranking", in German only).
Our intention in undertaking this ranking is to stimulate a debate we think is long overdue not only in German-language economic geography centered on methodical approach. The intention is to update this ranking regularly in the future and to structure "ZitArt" as a monitor. This is in response to the increasingly dynamic nature of this field for – as our analyses of the data have found – younger economic geographers publish much more frequently in such internationally respected journals than was previously the case, which is a pleasing development. We feel this should be appropriately documented and rewarded. In addition, the data can be used and evaluated in a range of other ways.
We would like to encourage all economic geographers to participate in this debate on the quantitative recording and documentation of the publication and citation output of German-speaking economic geographers. We are aware, of course, that this kind of personal analysis and publications is a sensitive subject and that it may attract criticism. It is not our aim to discriminate against individual scientists or forms of publication (books, contributions to books, articles in journals not registered with SSCI/SCI), but to generate transparency and to make it easy to build up profiles: German-language economic geography is far more heterogeneous and less homogeneous than is perceived from the outside, and at some institutes it is capable of far more than other disciplines suspect. We are also aware that scientists lower down in the rankings generally criticize the methods used, while those in the top positions praise precisely the same methods, at least among themselves. We can handle that because we are able to differentiate between personal and academic criticism (e.g. from colleagues working in bibliometrics) – we are interested in the latter. Finally, we are of course also aware that every method has room for improvement and are therefore grateful for any comments. Please address any comments you have about ZitArt and any tips relating to errors in the data to the following e-mail address dedicated to ZitArt.
Hanover, February 2017
Rolf Sternberg, Tom Brökel
Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography
Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany