Thursday, 29 January 2009

European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH)

The ERIH Lists categorises journals in the Humanities using a three point scale A, B and C. Definitions of these categories are presented in ERIH guidelines :

A high-ranking international publications with a very strong reputation among researchers of the field in different countries, regularly cited all over the world.
B: standard international publications with a good reputation among researchers of the field in different countries.
C: research journals with an important local / regional significance in Europe, occasionally cited outside the publishing country though their main target
group is the domestic academic community.

The aim of the project is to identify areas of excellence in the humanities. The lists are compiled by groups of experts, which reflect a similar process used by the Australian Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA). Clearly stated on the ERIH website is that lists are not intended as a ranking exercise and should not be used as a bibliographic analysis tool. Their aim is to identify excellent research in the 15 areas analysed.

However, the ERIH has generated controversy among publishers and editors who argue that whatever the intention of the exercise, the outcome will be to produce a hierarchy of journals and to encourage academics and those who evaluate research outputs to focus on A category titles. Following protests from publishers, the A B C categories are being replaced by textual descriptors, reported in the THES. Some journal editors plan to publish a letter outlining their concerns with the ERIH in January 09 issues. Australian academics have voiced similar concerns, noting that journals in some areas of research, for example in media and film, there are few or no journals in the top A* category. The arguement continues in the blogosphere.

The debate is particular interst in view of the future planning for the REF, and the percieved problems of trying to assess the quality of research outputs in the Arts and Humanities.

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