Uncertainty Measures for Economics Journal Impact Factors
Academic economists appear to be intensely interested in rankings of journals, institutions, and individuals. Yet there is little discussion of the uncertainty associated with these rankings. To illustrate the uncertainty associated with citations-based rankings, I compute the standard error of the impact factor for all economics journals with a five-year impact factor in the 2011 Journal Citations Report. I use these to derive confidence intervals for the impact factors as well as ranges of possible rank for a subset of thirty journals. I find that the impact factors of the top two journals are well defined and set these journals apart in a clearly defined group. An elite group of 9-11 mainstream journals can also be fairly reliably distinguished. The four bottom ranked journals are also fairly clearly set apart. For the remainder of the distribution, confidence intervals overlap and rankings are quite uncertain.
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