Problems with the New Google Scholar Metrics

22 07 2019

The new Google Scholar Journal metrics are out and have generated a great deal of discussing on Academic Twitter. I’m writing this blog post to suggest that there may be serious methodological problems in Google’s rankings of academic journals.

Here are the top-ranked journal in the field of Business, Economics, and Management (BEM). The numbers are the h5-index and the h5-median.


1. American Economic Review 147 229
2. Journal of Financial Economics 112 164
3. The Journal of Finance 108 181
4. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 104 189
5. Journal of Business Ethics 98 131
6. Journal of Business Research 96 131
7. The Review of Financial Studies 94 140
8. Tourism Management 94 139
9. Management Science 91 124
10. Strategic Management Journal 90 123
11. International Journal of Production Economics 89 126
12. Journal of Management 88 146
13. Academy of Management Journal 86 129
14. World Development 84 116
15. International Journal of Project Management 79 105
16. Journal of Economic Perspectives 77 140
17. Econometrica 75 125
18. Energy Economics 75 90
19. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 74 96
20. Journal of Political Economy 73 131

There are no major surprises in Google’s rankings of the top journals in the general field of BEM, which makes Google’s ranking system seem fairly credibly to me. Within the BEM field, Google ranks journals by subcategory. Here are the rankings for Economic History. As you can see, the Review of Keynesian Economics was absurdly categorized as an economic history journal, which strongly suggests to me that the ranking and categorization decision was made by either a non-academic who didn’t bother speaking to academics in the field, or some automatic system. Either way, the credibility of the entire ranking system is reduced, at least in my eyes. If Google’s journal categorization system is flawed for the subdiscipline I know best, it makes me suspect there are other dubious decisions lurking elsewhere in the system.


My point is that we should use extreme caution when thinking about these new rankings. We should also ask some tough questions about the procedure used to create them.


Publication h5-index h5-median
1. The Journal of Economic History 28 48
2. The Economic History Review 22 27
3. Business History 20 29
4. Explorations in Economic History 20 27
5. Review of Keynesian Economics 18 23
6. European Review of Economic History 16 20
7. History of Political Economy 16 18
8. The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 13 19
9. Accounting History 12 14
10. Journal of the History of Economic Thought 11 17



2 responses

22 07 2019
Rory Miller

It looks like the rankings were drawn up by a monolingual English-speaker too…

27 07 2019

Good point Rory. The rankings are based simply on citation counts, so that would naturally exclude journals in pretty much any language against English and Chinese. Since Google Scholar isn’t in China, it can’t really count the Chinese journals either.

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