Culling Journals Time!

It is that time of the year when our librarian asks us to consider whether or not to continue subscribing to journals.  In the past, journals have been identified by “percentage increase” with the idea that those whose increase is high need special attention to determine if they are still valuable.  This assumes that we had made good decisions in the past:  if a “bad” journal keeps its increase low enough, it doesn’t show up on the radar screen.  A low priced, but valuable journal with a “big” one-time increase gets special scrutiny.  But which should get more attention: a journal going up $60 on a base of $600 or an equivalent quality journal going up $200 on a base of $5000?  Ordering by percentage increase means the first gets much more attention but rational budgeting suggests looking carefully at the second.  While those values seem extreme, that is roughly what happens when comparing Management Science (as the “inexpensive” journal) and European Journal of Operational Research (whose price to Carnegie Mellon is $5885 per year).

This year, our librarian simply listed all journals above $500 and asked us to look those over.  Here are the ones in operations research/operations management we are considering:

ZEITSCHRIFT FUR OPERATIONS RESEARCH aka Mathematical Methods of Operations Research $898

The INFORMS journals don’t make the list since the bundled rate puts them under $500/journal.

What to do with these?  Fortunately, I have already done some checking on journal influence and pricing.

Let’s start with the first journal listed above: “International Journal of Production Research” (Taylor and Francis). If we take a “cost per eigenfactor” value, that journal ranks 39th in the “Operations Research” ranking.  I have never considered publishing in the journal, so I don’t know much about it.  It does publish a lot of articles (24 issues per year, with around 15-20 articles per issue).  I recognize a couple of names on its editorial board.  Harzing’s indispensable Publish or Perish shows that it has a fair number of papers published with 100+ google scholar cites.  Overall, not a bad or junk journal, but for $8615, I would want much more.  So I would be biased towards dropping, but will bow to my colleagues in operations management on how they feel.  Near as I can tell, none of them have published in the journal either, so that might be a good one to cut.

European Journal of Operational Research (Elsevier) is a difficult one for me.  I have published two papers there recently, and it is a key outlet in operations research.  Since they publish many papers (24 issues/year times perhaps 25  papers per issue), the journal is important to our field.  Going through the same steps as above, the journal is 12th in cost per eigenfactor, number 1 in overall eigenfactor,I certainly know and admire much of the editorial board, there are many papers above 100 cites.  I’m not crazy about a $5855 cost, but I think we are stuck paying it.

Journal of the Operational Research Society (Palgrave) would be a hard one for me to cut.  Sometimes it veers off in directions I am not crazy about (the dreaded “soft OR” versus “hard OR” debate) but it offers a nice mix of theory and application, along with the odd interesting historical piece.  Number 15 on the cost/eigenfactor, I think it is safe.

Computational Optimization and Applications (Springer) is a journal I have published once in, and is part of the discussion when trying to place some of my work.  It is down the list at 25th in cost/eigenvector, but has an admirable board.  Not a huge number of papers with 100+ cites (14 in my search), but pretty reasonable.  I think it is OK.

Zeitschrift fuer Operations Research (Mathematical Methods of Operations Research) (Springer) has a long history, going back to the days when it made sense to talk about a country’s operations research journals.  But, like “operations research” groups in Fortune 500 companies, country-oriented OR journals are finding it hard to compete.  In fact, I am finding it hard to parse out exactly what the history is here, but this appears to be the combination of a couple different journals.  In any case, at 28 in the cost/eigenvector listing, it is clear it needs more papers like “Modeling of Extremal Events in Insurance and Finance” by Embrechts and Schmidli (1994) (at an impressive 2051 google cites) if it is going to survive.  So keep for now, but give it a stern eye.

OR Letters (Elsevier) is a natural keep at number 9 in the cost/eigenvector listing.  It is as close as we get to the rapid publication system that works so well in portions of computer science through their competitive conference publication system.

Journal of Operations Management (Elsevier) at number 10 in the cost/eigenvector listing, and a Financial Times journal to boot (meaning it is used to gauge research impact in the Financial Times ranking of business schools) is also a natural keep.

OK, there you have it:  I would toss out the International Journal of Production Research on the basis of stupid pricing but keep the rest.   We’ll see if my colleagues vote to keep it around for another year.

5 thoughts on “Culling Journals Time!”

  1. If you’re interested in the “becoming” of MMOR, you may like to read Heiner Müller-Merbach’s review on “50 + 3 Years of OR Institutions in Germany” (IFORS News 3(4), Dec 2009. pp.10-11 : and the journal’s editorial (web)page at Springer (

    MMOR is one of two major publications that the German Society of Operations Research (GOR) publishes in coorporation with the Dutch NGB (the other one is the “OR Spectrum” – which, btw, scores higher in the VHB’s (the German Academic Association for Business Research) journal ranking:

    Predecessors of the MMOR are the “Zeitschrift für Operations Research” (ZOR; 1972–95; published on behalf of the DGOR, a GOR precursor) which itself suceeds the “Unternehmensforschung” (1956–71; the publication of the DGU, a predecessor of the DGOR).

  2. What about cost-per-use as a metric? It gets a little tricky, in that someone checking out an issue could be looking for more than one paper (or could in fact be reading the entire issue), but I would wager that most use of a library’s copy of a journal is to access a single article.

    In our library, we also need to factor in replacement cost, which in our case means the cost of getting PDFs of articles from journals we lack, and for that matter the cost of getting PDFs of articles from journals we have. (My impression is that the cost of a faculty member downloading a PDF is lower when we have a print subscription.)

    Rankings are a bit squishy, so I’d view this as a knapsack problem with actual utilization as the objective metric (and perhaps a somewhat flexible budget limit).

  3. In our library, we also need to factor in replacement cost, which in our case means the cost of getting PDFs of articles from journals we lack

  4. An important reason to (re)subscribe journals is to check where you and your colleagues publish or have a reasonable chance of publication. For many research universities then, EJOR or even IJPR would be much more attractive than Management Science or MSOM. A journal is eventually a means for communication between researchers across universities: people should stick to journals that they read and where they publish — citations and even costs are secondary to mutual sharing of ideas and furthering of knowledge.

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