Which Journal Rankings Best Explain Academic Salaries? Evidence from the University of California
The ranking of an academic journal is important to authors, universities, journal publishers and research funders. Rankings are gaining prominence as countries adopt regular research assessment exercises that especially reward publication in high impact journals. Yet even within a rankings-oriented discipline like economics there is no agreement on how aggressively lower ranked journals are down-weighted and in how wide is the universe of journals considered. Moreover, since it is typically less costly for authors to cite superfluous references, whether of their own volition or prompted by editors, than it is to ignore relevant ones, rankings based on citations may be easily manipulated. In contrast, when the merits of publication in one journal or another are debated during hiring, promotion and salary decisions, the evaluators are choosing over actions with costly consequences. We therefore look to the academic labor market, using data on economists in the University of California system to relate their lifetime publications in 700 different academic journals to salary. We test amongst various sets of journal rankings, and publication discount rates, to see which are most congruent with the returns implied by the academic labor market.
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