March 16, 2014

The Top Innovation Journals

Most American business schools draw a distinction between general and specialty (or “field”) journals for specialties such as innovation. The best of the former are dubbed “A” journals, and at many “Top 25” schools, the only publications that count towards tenure are the “A” pubs.

In Canada and other places outside the U.S., the only journals that count are the 45 journals used by the Financial Times b-school rankings It includes the standard "A" journals in management, marketing, accounting and finance, and adds the three top managerial journals, two entrepreneurial journals and a few other less obvious journals. (No innovation journals are included).

All of these rankings are based on citation metrics, on the presumption that the more oft-cited articles are “better”, “more important” or at least more influential. The expert in this field is Anne-Wil Harzing (who has studied such metrics, makes ranking software and has spent 15 years integrating the various journal ranking lists). Here are some thoughts about different measures that might identify the “top” innovation journals.

Ranking of Innovation Journals

When writing my own work, working with co-authors, or mentoring junior scholars, I often ask (or am asked): where is the “best” place to publish this paper? Since my work — like those who care to ask my opinion — is almost entirely about innovation, the question is on finding the “best” innovation journal.

Fortunately, Tek Thongpapanl has provided hard data about innovation-related journals, using citations from articles published in leading innovation journals (Linton & Thongpapanl, 2004; Thongpapanl, 2012). To deal with the problem of coercive citations — where editors of lesser journals demand citations to their journal as a condition of publication — he provides rankings with and without journal self-citations.

His studies suggest two top journals for innovation management: Research Policy and the Journal of Product Innovation Management.† The next tier are more difficult to define, but the most recent study suggests (in alphabetical order) Industrial & Corporate Change, R&D Management and Technovation. (Both studies ranked highly Research-Technology Management, a journal that tends to publish more firsthand managerial papers than academic studies.)

† I'm not saying this because I have articles coming out in both this year. I would have said this in January 2012 when I received a preprint of Thongpapanl (2012).

Journal Citation Reports

Another source of rankings are the Journal Citation Reports, published by Thomson. I used 2012 data to search for Business, Finance, Economics, Information Science, Management and Sociology journals.

From the top 100 journals (sorted by 5-year impact factor), below are selected FT, innovation, entrepreneurship and strategy journals. (Journals marked * are part of the FT 45; innovation journals in bold.)

1. Academy of Management Review*
2. Journal of Economic Literature
3. Academy of Management Journal*
4. Quarterly Journal of Economics*
5. Journal of Management
6. Administrative Science Quarterly*
7. MIS Quarterly*
12. Strategic Management Journal*
13. Journal of Finance*
16. Journal of Marketing*
20. Organization Science*
30. Journal of Management Studies*
32. Research Policy
35. American Economic Review*
39. Org Behavior and Human Decision Processes*
45. Journal of Business Venturing*
54. Information Systems Research*
55. Strategic Organization
62. Journal of Marketing Research*
65. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice*
67. Technovation
74. Organization Studies*
80. Journal of Product Innovation Management
82. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal
85. Management Science*

In other words, Research Policy is equivalent to AER, Technovation to Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice and JPIM to Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal (and ahead of what many consider the gold standard, Management Science).

The next highest innovation journals are R&D Management (156) and Industrial and Corporate Change (162), roughly equivalent to two leading specialty journals, Human Resource Management (155) and Small Business Economics (157). Rounding out the top 250 are the Journal of Technology Transfer (206) and IEEE Transactions in Engineering Management (218).

Unlike Tek’s measures, these do not include corrections for self-citations, so the rankings of journals with high self-citation rates should be taken with a grain of salt.

Ranking by h5-index

A final metric are the Google Scholar Metrics, a family of tools based on the Google index of journals, conference, working papers and monographs. The latest metrics “are currently based on our index as it was in July 2013.”

In particular, it offers metrics based on the Hirsch h-index. As Google explains
The h-index of a publication is the largest number h such that at least h articles in that publication were cited at least h times each. For example, a publication with five articles cited by, respectively, 17, 9, 6, 3, and 2, has the h-index of 3.

h5-index is the h-index for articles published in the last 5 complete years. It is the largest number h such that h articles published in 2008-2012 have at least h citations each.
Harzing and Daniel Baker discuss the merits of the h- and h5-index.

Based on the 2008-2012 data, Google has compiled a list of the top innovation and entrepreneurship journals:

Top publications - Entrepreneurship & Innovation

1.Research Policy73
2.Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice52
3.Journal of Business Venturing51
5.Small Business Economics46
6.Journal of Product Innovation Management39
7.Journal of Small Business Management35
8.R&D Management34
9.The Journal of Technology Transfer31
10.International Small Business Journal27
11.Journal of Intellectual Capital26
12.International Entrepreneurship and
Management Journal
13.Entrepreneurship and Regional Development25
14.Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal23
15.Technology Analysis & Strategic
16.Economics of Innovation and New
17.European Journal of Innovation Management22
18.International Journal of Innovation
19.Industry and Innovation21
20.International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research21
Dates and citation counts are estimated and are determined automatically by a computer program.
If you compare this to the overall list of “Business, Economics and Management” journals, it produces a stunning conclusion. With an h5-value of 73, Research Policy ranks after 8 finance and economics journals (including AER, J. Finance, J. Financial Economics and QJE). However, it ranks ahead of all strategy and other management journals, including SMJ, AMJ, MISQ, Management Science, J. Marketing and Organization Science.

What does this mean? It means that Research Policy — unknown to most tenure committees — has more high-impact articles than but a handful of the “A” journals that count for tenure at most schools.


My friends and colleagues in innovation, entrepreneurship and other specialties can be divided into three categories

  1. Those who play the “A” game, either because they believe in it or because they feel they can’t beat the system.
  2. Those who reject the whole journal ranking game as being an imperfect proxy for research quality, and argue for direct measures of article quality (such as article citations).
  3. Those who believe the current “A” system undervalues quality research in so-called “B” journals, and thus want to use the rules of journal and article “quality” to gain greater recognition for good work published elsewhere.
If asked by a junior scholar what to do, I would point out the strong interaction effect between his/her choice of publishing strategy and the sort of employers they select (or that select them).


Linton, Jonathan D., and Narongsak Tek Thongpapanl. "Ranking the Technology Innovation Management Journals." Journal of Product Innovation Management 21, no. 2 (2004): 123-139. doi: 10.1111/j.0737-6782.2004.00062.x

Thongpapanl, Narongsak Tek. "The changing landscape of technology and innovation management: An updated ranking of journals in the field." Technovation 32, no. 5 (2012): 257-271. doi: 10.1016/j.technovation.2012.01.001


Ivan Ž. said...

Regarding Research Policy - its higher h5 index could be due to the fact that it publishes quite a few more articles than top management journals. So if two journals have the same impact factor, but the first publishes double the amount of articles as the second, it would be reasonable to expect that the h5 index of the first journal will be considerably higher. Still, your last point about more high-impact articles in RP is entirely valid.

Joel West said...

Fair point. According to a quick & dirty check using Google Scholar, in 2012 RP published 299 vs. 111 for SMJ and 110 for AMJ. (Google Scholar can't search only for Mgt Sci but that seems to be about 140-150 a year).

On the other hand, if you look at the pattern of specialty journal citations, the opportunities for citation are fewer. A management pub can be cited by 30 people in a business school while an innovation pub might be cited by 2 (plus another 0-3 in the engineering school). All the specialty journals have this problem.

Even with a great h5 number, no one is going to convince the tenure committee a top 25 business school that RP is a better journal than AMR or ASQ (in part because they don't publish there). However, I think the data are suggestive that they should be considering this as a journal on par with Org Sci, JMR or Mgt Sci -- or at least pay attention to the high impact articles in RP.