Nul points for top ten journal idea 1

February 4, 2005

The Arts and Humanities Research Board is attempting to impose a rank order of journals on the arts and humanities community in the name of a spurious objectivity imposed by the Office of Science and Technology - and hence the Department of Trade and Industry. In doing so, it is adopting a methodology of breathtaking crudity based on fewer genuinely measurable criteria than a beauty contest ("Journals 'top ten' sparks a rebellion", January 28).

But the most sinister threat of such an approach to the quality of scholarly publication - and hence to the basic intellectual and moral integrity of scholarship in the humanities, and its dissemination - surely lies in the readiness to squander public funds on the fees of a management consultant to compile inadequate lists of journals. Any serious scholar in each field could have drawn up this list more accurately in a few minutes with the help of a standard bibliography.

The humanities already possess a body of peer judgements incomparably more subtle and discriminating than anything likely to be developed by the OST with its dependence on the pseudoscience of bibliometrics. If the price of the AHRB becoming a research council is subservience to the DTI, it is not worth paying.

David Wells
School of Languages, Linguistics and Culture
Birkbeck, University of London

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