In How Much do Core Journals Change over a Decade?, Steve Black looked at journal ranking over a 12-year period in the field of communication disorders. The ranking criteria used came from a 2001 study examining the reliability of citation rankings in the same field. This study confirmed a strong correlation between high citation rankings and patron use on a local level. Black used these rankings to define movement trends in this set of journals between 1997 and 2009.
There was a significant annual increase in the number of journal titles and the number of published papers as the decade progressed. The period also saw a 32% increase in citations per article, but Black found that the highest-ranking journals were generally static during this time. The most significant movement was seen amongst journals that began with a low ranking. The success of these dark horse publications was interestingly linked to lower than average price increases, suggesting that discovery played a roll in the evolution of these inoffensive players. The paper found that movement amongst ranked journals was insignificant enough to be managed by normal development initiatives like annual additions and cancellations.
I’ve looked at a few studies this year that have correlated citation rank with things like social media coverage and use in student bibliographies and it seems like it could also be a powerful collection development tool. As we begin to examine our electronic resource usage and demand, it might also be helpful to examine citation rankings in education. Black’s happy findings suggest that careful selection may serve and even inspire future demand without much tweaking.