ABS ranking reveals 'world elite' of business journals

Thirty-three journals have been given the coveted “world elite” ranking in an influential and hotly debated league table

February 25, 2015

Source: Getty

The Association of Business Schools’ Academic Journal Guide 2015 assesses the quality of 1,401 business and management publications worldwide, based on citation scores and the judgements of leading researchers.

It is designed to help academics to make decisions about where they should seek to have their work published and to help deans to evaluate performance.

But some scholars complain that the guide has become too powerful in decisions on recruitment, promotion and salary review, and that as a consequence they are assessed only on where they publish, not what they publish.

In the latest edition of the guide, the award of the 4* “journal of distinction” accolade to 33 publications represents an increase since the last version, published in 2010, when 22 reached this grade.

However, since the previous issue encompassed only 823 titles, the proportion of journals considered 4* has declined, from 2.7 per cent to 2.4 per cent.

The new guide gives 85 journals (6.1 per cent) a quality rating of 4, meaning that they publish the “most original and best executed research”, compared with 72 (8.7 per cent) in the last edition.

Some 312 journals (22.3 per cent) were rated as 3, meaning that they publish “original and well executed research”, compared with 230 (.9 per cent) last time.

There were 481 titles (34.3 per cent) ranked 2, meaning they publish “original research of an acceptable standard”, and 490 in the bottom 1 category, classed as journals publishing work of a “recognised, but more modest standard”.

The guide divides journals into 22 different subject areas and judges economics to have the highest number of 4* journals, with six. Marketing had five, while accounting and general management had four each.

Geoffrey Wood of Warwick Business School and David Peel of Lancaster University Management School, the guide’s co-editors, say that they recognise that any attempt to differentiate between journals will “naturally be contentious”.

Writing in the guide’s introduction, they say that “exceptional scholarly work may be found in many places” but that it “tends to be clustered in particular locales and journals”.

“Identifying such locales is a difficult and fraught process, but we remain convinced that it is better that it is done through the involvement of scholarly experts and their associations than without,” the editors say.

Professor Wood told Times Higher Education that the guide aimed “to provide scholars with clear goalposts against which to aim for in seeking to progress their careers”.

“Although the guide is not intended to be fully inclusive, inclusion in the guide is an indicator that the journal should uphold high scholarly standards, and treat authors professionally and with respect,” he said.

The next edition of the guide is scheduled to be published in 2018.

For full coverage of the ABS journal guide, see this week’s THE


World’s elite: 4* journals in the ABS Academic Journal Guide 2015

Field: Accounting

  • Accounting Review
  • Accounting, Organizations and Society
  • Journal of Accounting and Economics
  • Journal of Accounting Research

Field: Economics, econometrics and statistics

  • American Economic Review
  • Annals of Statistics
  • Econometrica
  • Journal of Political Economy
  • Quarterly Journal of Economics
  • Review of Economic Studies

Field: General management, ethics and social responsibility

  • Academy of Management Journal
  • Academy of Management Review
  • Administrative Science Quarterly
  • Journal of Management

Field: Finance

  • Journal of Finance
  • Journal of Financial Economics
  • Review of Financial Studies

Field: International business and area studies

  • Journal of International Business Studies

Field: Information management

  • Information Systems Research
  • MIS Quarterly

Field: Marketing

  • Journal of Consumer Psychology
  • Journal of Consumer Research
  • Journal of Marketing
  • Journal of Marketing Research
  • Marketing Science

Field: Operations and technology management

  • Journal of Operations Management

Field: Operations research and management science

  • Management Science
  • Operations Research

Field: Organisation studies

  • Organization Science

Field: Social sciences

  • American Journal of Sociology
  • American Sociological Review
  • Annual Review of Sociology

Field: Strategy

  • Strategic Management Journal

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Reader's comments (7)

This list "aimed to provide scholars with clear goalposts against which to aim for in seeking to progress their careers”. But you better be playing American Football, because this is simply a list of US journals. In my subdisciplines, in the journals ranked, the work is conservative, narrow, and parochial to the United States. People had better not believe the playing field is level, either. The normal institutional biases, let alone positive discrimination, tilt play in favour of the US scholar. The paper you've written and want someone to read informally. Your reader down the corridor or you bump into at a local seminar in THE-land is not going to be the editor of any of these journals, is he. Yes, he (nice, and appropriate pic btw). The Association of Business Schools is now trying to face in two directions at once. It is sending the message, firstly, that if you are 'seeking to progress [your] career' you should publish in these US journals. At the same time management scholars are told, rightly, and not least by the ABS that they need to have a strong concern for 'impact' in the REF sense - for material changes in the real world. Well, intuitively, research that gets published in these 4* journals will by definition have to be the opposite of impactful. (I make these comments in a personal capacity, and not in my capacity as Vice Chair Research and Publications of the British Academy of Management).
Agree with Bill's comments the list is tedious and, possibly worse, irrelevant to the real world of business education. Little wonder that business education is increasingly irrelevant to business, business support for research in B schools collapsing and Schools are becoming peripheral cash cows to the Universities that host them.
My internet security software has some sage advice about the crassly named ABS website: "bizschooljournals.com": "This link isn't rated. Proceed with caution."
A ranking list is one measure of achievement, and as presented here, it outlines the 'world elite' ranking. Accreditation is another indicator of achievement. This approach by EFMD suggests a broader definition of research activity (and presumably 'achievement' as well): "EQUIS has always defined research as a broad spectrum of intellectual endeavour, ranging from scholarly publications aimed primarily at the academic community, through professionally relevant publications and activities aimed at organisations and business practitioners, to educationally relevant productions aimed at learners and teachers in universities, schools and companies."* It is not easy to navigate around the concept of research, and what achievement means. --What message to give to early career faculty? *Source: ("The Challenges facing business school accreditation", 2014:10, https://www.efmd.org/images/stories/efmd/GF/2014-issue3/Issue_3_2014_accreditation.pdf)
What do they mean by "impact"? Do they make the world a better place? Do they improve the quality of living? or do they simple advance the ability of researchers to talk to themselves and only to themselves and try to game the system by quoting each other? Is it time that research impact be measured as contribution to society's well-being. Then lets allocate society's resources to research that has impact.
P.S. Being in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility I notice, with disgust, that in the picture there is only one woman and one black.
I support all of the above criticisms of the list. The main point though has yet to be made. It is simply the role of this list, in all of its versions, in the most widespread case of group think I have ever experienced. The reliance on, or more accurately obsession with, this list as an indicator of the RAE/REF 'star quality' of research outputs among Deans and Heads of Research; however titled; in UK business schools. Despite the written guidance in RAE/REF official documents; despite the written and spoken assurances of RAE/REF panel members that journal ranking lists play(ed) no part in RAE/REF assessments of output quality; despite the actual results of RAE/REF final assessments; the 'ABS List' has been the most significant single metric applied to internal assessment of research performance of B&M academics, to decisions on who receives support for research and to decisions on whose work is entered into RAE/REF submissions. Unless someone can produce a cure for the group think, the message for those processes remains the same; if you want positive performance appraisals, support for your research and to have your work included in the next REF then conduct positivist research which results in lots of numbers and publish in an American journal which is read by only other academics attempting to ensure that their next piece gets favourably reviewed and published. If we can cure the group think then this list, and all such lists, will become the irrelevance it deserves to be. I write in a personal capacity and not in my role as Executive Secretary of the University Forum for HRD.