Journal rankings do not recognise quality (1 of 2)

January 20, 2011

The letter by the editors of the Association of Business Schools' Academic Journal Quality Guide ("Journal rankings help define, not distort", 6 January) in response to the opinion piece by Dennis Tourish ("Publish or be damned", 16 December) will give many serious academics in the business and management area cause for deep concern.

It will be particularly worrying for academics who are aware, from their (subordinate) position, of the "history, the economic context or the challenges confronting the leaders of UK business schools" but happen to have come to a somewhat different and less supine analysis. Particularly too, for those who fully "understand the rules of the profession" but thought that these were created through agreement and that fundamental changes in the values of the community could not be forced on them by a self-appointed gerontocracy.

Since they have now been told of the reluctance of their "leaders" to actually read lots of material in the haste to simplify judgements and make resource allocation quicker and cheaper, these academics know that lists are always a proxy for quality, but never recognise quality itself. So lists are not meant to recognise academic excellence. They are designed to make administration easier for our paymasters - and for those among us, out there in the vanguard, who feel the need to bend the knee, with eyes cast down and palms held up.

Most galling, it is these letter writers who, while apparently wishing their schema to allocate funding resources, ensure journal survival and even influence university employment, hide their role in the construction of such lists by crass reification of the process. To suggest that the guide is a composite of various institutions' lists avoids the fact that the four of them have to be held fully responsible for its chimerical construction and the partial academic judgements and prejudices that it contains.

Gibson Burrell, School of Management, University of Leicester.

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