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Vital Statistics

Published on April 2, 2014        Author: 

It is my custom to publish in the first issue of the year some of our vital statistics for the year ending. One particular vital statistic concerns the number of downloads of EJIL articles in any given year. To be clear, we measure the number of downloads of all EJIL articles, not just those published in the year in question. The latest stats we have are from 2012, which saw 512,000 downloads. It is up from 400,000 or so in the previous year. It is an astonishing figure provided by OUP and I asked that it be audited. They stand by their figure. The large number is explained by two factors: a sizeable number of EJIL articles are used in classrooms and in course packs and reading lists – resulting in thousands of downloads around the world by students. And of course our ‘near’ open-access policy, whereby all articles more than a year old become part of our free archive, is another critical factor. Be that as it may, if you publish in EJIL you are likely to be read and often used in the classroom; if you read EJIL, you are in good, if crowded, company (unless you have the habit of downloading and not reading – certainly cheaper than photocopying and not reading).

I have already expressed my scepticism of the various ‘bibliometrics’ of journals in an earlier Editorial (23 EJIL (2012) no. 3) I find the much touted ‘impact factor’ most laughable, skewed as it is by the number of articles you publish per annum – the fewer, the better you are likely to do. We get penalized by our large number of shorter pieces – debates, reactions, critical jurisprudence and critical governance rubrics and the like. Much more significant would be the number of citations. This is not laughable but still earns my chagrin since the databases are so skewed in this instance towards the American domestic legal journal market and ignore for the most part citations in non-English language journals. No sour grapes here: we do very well regardless.

Various outfits run these stats. I believe the most serious and intelligent is that put out by Washington and Lee University in the United States, as a service to authors trying to choose publication venues which will give most exposure to their articles. It explains the vagaries of Impact Factor and offers a ‘combined’ score of citations (66%) and ‘impact factor’ (33%). In its class (specialized, refereed) EJIL is number one among non-USA legal journals. In overall ranking (US and Non-USA) it ranks 4th in terms of citation and 10th in its combined score. (Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law – a very worthy journal, used I imagine by a zillion American criminal lawyers, ranks as number 9 – you get the point).

If I am sceptical of these stats why do I trouble to mention them? It is not simply because EJIL does reasonably well. First, I know that many hiring committees, tenure committees and the like slavishly follow these bibliometric indications in evaluating the significance that should be given to publication in this or that journal. Sigh. I do so also as an occasion to repeat my Cato’s cry to the European legal publishing world to develop a more credible database for such statistical computation, which would better reflect the linguistic and cultural diversity of the world.

A distinction of EJIL is that we publish both commissioned and non-commissioned articles. We do not see ourselves simply as a refereeing service and thus initiate symposia, debates, reaction pieces and the like. We aim to have at least 50 per cent of our content derived from non-solicited articles. The statistics for this past year, particularly for the category of published articles, were affected to some degree by the major symposium we published in our first issue revisiting Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars.  It was a symposium which featured no less than 23 articles mostly from English-speaking countries (for which we received some rude comments in EJIL: Talk! which Gaby Blum and I addressed in our preface to the Symposium) and covering almost 450 pages. The symposium significantly weighted the statistics on regional and linguistic provenance and the unsolicited versus solicited manuscript equation: 16 unsolicited manuscripts (406 pages) and 36 commissioned manuscripts (692 pages) were published in 2013 as opposed to the almost equal figures of 25 unsolicited pieces (588 pages) and 23 commissioned pieces (361 pages) in 2012. Clearly, special circumstances bring about special results, and we expect to return to a more equal balance between unsolicited and commissioned articles in future.

Interestingly, 35 per cent of submissions, accepted articles and published articles were written by women in 2013, indicating that whilst women are still not equally represented in the pages of EJIL their manuscripts are faring equally well in the review process. The precise percentage correlation in submissions, acceptances and resulting publication is accidental. We practise no affirmative action. At the same time, each of these three categories show higher percentage rates for women authors than in previous years: 12 percentage points higher for published articles, 6 points higher for accepted articles and 2 points higher for submissions. (To remind you, the difference between acceptances and published articles is because of the time delay between acceptances and publication. A goodly number of articles published in 2013 will be based on acceptances and submissions in prior years.)

We divide the world into four regions for our statistical purposes: the European Union, Council of Europe countries outside the EU, the US and Canada and the rest of the world. Of the total number of submissions to the journal, 42 per cent came from the EU, 9 per cent from CoE countries outside the EU, 22 per cent from the US and Canada, and 27 per cent from the rest of the world. For accepted articles, the rates were 62 per cent for the EU, 3 per cent for CoE countries outside the EU, 26 per cent for the US and Canada, and 9 per cent for the rest of the world. The figures for published articles were 48 per cent for the EU, 0 per cent for CoE countries outside the EU, 38 per cent for the US and Canada (reflecting, as mentioned, the special symposium issue) and 14 per cent for the rest of the world.

The figures show an encouraging increase in the percentages of articles from non-English speaking countries both for submitted manuscripts and accepted articles: 56 per cent for both of these categories as opposed to 51 and 48 per cent, respectively, for 2012. The percentage dropped to 35 per cent for published articles, again influenced by the symposium issue.

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