Robinson 2
Taylor, Harriet
George, Henry
Webb, beatrice


HEI editor letters against impact factor suppression

Letters from Nicola Giocoli (HEI) to Mr Ciavarella of Clarivate Analytics

1. Letter of June 21, 2018
Dear Mr. Ciavarella,
As editor of HEI-History of Economic Ideas I wish to invite you to reconsider your decision to suppress our journal from the JCR on account of, as you call it, "citation stacking". I suspect that the anomaly in the donor/recipient citation ratio that you recorded is simply due to the annual survey on the recent history of economics literature that our journal has been publishing in the last three years. The survey is a serious piece of research that we commission to junior scholars in the field (usually, scholars who just finished their PhD) ‎to let them recognize and assess the research trends in the discipline. The initiative has been very successful, so much so that in our 2018 volume we will publish two such surveys, divided by topics. Another survey is scheduled for 2019.
Being a survey, by its nature, this kind of work hosts lots of references to other journals in the field. If this is what cased the anomaly in your donor/recipient metrics, I apologize for that and suggest that you simply omit to consider those surveys in your citation counts. Please, let me know if there is any specific way we may identify the survey in our table of contents in order to help you exclude it from the metrics.
I am at your disposal for any further information you may wish to ask.
Thank you very much.
Best regards,
Nicola Giocoli
Editor, HEI-History of Economic Ideas

2. Letter of July 3, 2018
Dear dr. Ciavarella,
thank you for your answer. I cannot conceal that I am very, very disappointed with it.
As a first reaction, and without prejudging further action on our part, I can see at least three strange/unclear statements in the message from your JCR team [Edit: confirming the suppression] that you so kindly forwarded to me.
First, the survey that caused so much trouble to your metrics was not the first one, but rather the second, in our series. One might well wonder why the first one, published in HEI 1-2016 (“ANNUAL SURVEY OF IDEAS IN HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT JOURNALS (2014-2015)”, by Giulia Bianchi) did not trigger the same effect on your citation counts. I surmise that somehow your algorithm managed to recognize it as a survey. Could it be because that essay had the word “Survey” in the title, while the 2017 one had not? (Note however that the essay was included in a separate section of our journal, titled “Annual survey”). Could you please check with your JCR team if this was indeed the reason the 2016 survey had no distorting effects upon your metrics? If so, this would provide a very simple and effective way to avoid further problems in the future.
Second, while the message includes these words: “We do not infer impure motives on the part of the citing author, editors, or anyone affiliated with these journals in this specific case”, I found its closing statement really offensive. The sentence “The citation patterns generated by such an item do underlie an anomaly though, when we consider that Journal of the History of Economic Thought has approximately 40 years of research available to cite but this citing article focuses exclusively on the two JIF years” is as disrespectful as nonsensical. No anomaly exists. Our annual survey is expressly about the recent literature in the history of economic thought, that is, the last two years. It is not about the whole history of the discipline! The survey’s title clearly mentions the time span analyzed in the work. As I already explained you, the goal was to allow young scholars to evaluate the current trends in the field and express their views about its evolution. Maybe your team did not realize it, but by this decision Clarivate is effectively saying (should I write imposing?) that this kind of works have no legitimate place (should I write that they are prohibited?) in JCR journals. I am sure this is not what Clarivate wants to be considered the bottom line of this unpleasant incident.
Finally, what does your JCR team mean by: “Since the JIF and rank in category of Journal of the History of Economic Thought would have been greatly altered by this one citing item we cannot publish a meaningful metric”? By a single stroke, namely, by excluding one single item published in HEI, you could indeed publish a very meaningful 2017 metric for the JHET (and the EJHET, too!). I cannot believe your team is unable to (manually?) do this very simple operation and cancel all its references from your metrics for any journal the authors may have quoted. It is just one paper!
I still sincerely believe it is possible to find a solution to this annoying situation, which has the even more annoying implication of involving two other journals in the undesirable effects of an editorial decision that, as I explained you, was only our own. I once again invite you to reconsider the issue. And I still trust everybody’s common sense and good will.
With my best regards,
Nicola Giocoli
Editor, HEI – History of Economic Ideas