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About two decades ago I conducted a study of journals in the fields of social work, sociology and psychology. I examined the research records of the editorial board members in these three fields. For both psychology and sociology membership on editorial boards appeared to be related to a record of distinguished contribution to knowledge development as measured by publication of research and citations to that research. For social work, however, this did not appear to be the case. In fact, there were editorial boards that included no one who had ever published an article in a refereed journal (see Table below).
Publication Records of Editorial Boards Members
|Journal of Abnormal Psychology||20||12.8||39.5|
|Journal of Applied Psychology||26||11.1||10.8|
|Journal of Counseling Psychology||26||11.1||10.8|
|Journal of Educational Psychology||15||20.8||41.0|
|Journal of Pers. & Soc Psychology||19||12.6||59.5|
|Psychology Journals Overall||101||13.0||39.3|
|Clinical Social Work Journal||17||2.4||3.3|
|Journal of Educ. for Soc Work||19||1.1||.9|
|Social Service Review||7||7.0||6.0|
|Urban & Social Change Review||15||.1||.1|
|Social Work Journals Overall||108||1.0||1.0|
|American Sociological Review||26||8.5||42.5|
|Journal of Health & Social Behavior||23||6.0||15.0|
|Sociology of Education||20||7.1||18.7|
|Sociology Journals Overall||114||8.1||26.0|
I was particularly struck by the fact that Child Welfare had only one board member who had ever published research (and that consisted of one article). At that time Child Welfare was the only important journal for the field. I shared the results of this research with the editors and received mixed reactions. I believed the child welfare field needed a journal to promote empirical research and serious critical inquiry regarding the effectiveness and approach of services designed to serve children and youth. I discussed the idea with Pergamon Press and this led to the launch of Children and Youth Services Review nineteen years ago.
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In the Journal of Social Work Education L. Allen Furr (1995) reports on his study of the relative influence of social work journals. Previous studies of the influence of journals have focused on "impact scores" compiled by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) (Lindsey & Kirk, 1992). These measures indicate the relative impact articles in various journals have in the development of a knowledge base as measured by how often they are cited in subsequent published work. The frequency with which an article is cited is viewed as an indicator of its impact. Furr suggests that a limitation with the "impact factor" scores reported by the ISI is that they include citations to articles both within and outside their field. What is more germane is the "core influence" journals have in their particular field. In this regard he assessed the "core influence" of journals in the social work field. The results of his study for the top twenty journals in social work are reported in the Table below.
Journals Ranked by Core Influence
|2||Children and Youth Services Review||3.46||11|
|3||Social Work Research||3.42||19|
|4||Social Service Review||3.21||33|
|6||American Journal of Orthopsychiatry||2.66||58|
|7||Child Abuse and Neglect||1.98||56|
|8||Families in Society||1.88||67|
|9||Smith College Studies in Social Work||1.30||10|
|11||Social Work in Health Care||1.00||27|
|12||Journal of Social Work Education||.85||27|
|13||Clinical Social Work Journal||.81||27|
|14||Social Work with Groups||.76||29|
|15||Administration in Social Work||.70||27|
|16||Journal of Marital & Family Therapy||.69||29|
|18||British Journal of Social Work||.37||35|
|19||Child & Youth Care Forum||.23||31|
|20||Indian Social Work Journal||.13||38|
The most influential journal is Social Work which is distributed to more than 143,000 members of the National Association of Social Workers (Mendelsohn, 1992). The second most influential journal is Children and Youth Services Review. Apparently, over the years we have developed a journal which is making an important contribution to the field. It should be noted that there is a negligible difference between Children and Youth Services Review and the next journal on the list, Social Work Research. For that matter, the difference between these two journals and the fourth journal on the list, Social Service Review is probably not significant.
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Over the years journals in social work strengthened their editorial boards in terms of appointing members with stronger records of contribution to research and scholarship. For instance, Child Welfare now includes a number of scholars and researchers on its editorial board. Pardeck (1992) replicated my earlier study and found that although social work journals have made gains there is still room for improvement:
The study of journals has a purpose that extends beyond assessing the relative influence of individual journals. It serves to allow scrutiny of this vital institution.
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The strength of social works voice will be determined, in large part, by the advances achieved in developing expert knowledge through research and rigorous scholarship. In this effort social work journals play a major role. Every effort to eradicate the vestiges of cronyism and insure the highest standards of science are required. Guardians of the old system will no doubt resist the efforts to change. However, compromise with untenable patterns of appointment to editorial boards cannot be tolerated. To allow this to continue will harm more than the effort to build a knowledge base for effective practice, policies and programs. It will hobble the professions ability to make a difference for its clients.
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Furr, L.A. (1995). The relative influence of social work journals: Impact factors
versus core influence. Journal of Social Work Education, 31, 38-45, (Table 4, p.
Lindsey, D. (1976). Distinction, achievement, and editorial board membership. American Psychologist, 31, 799-804, (Table 1, p. 801)
Lindsey, D., & Kirk, S.A. (1992). The role of social work journals in the development of a knowledge base for the profession. Social Service Review, 66, 295-310.
Mendelsohn, H.N. (1992). An authors guide to social work journals. 3rd Edition. Washington, DC: NASW Press.
Pardeck, J. (1992). Are social work journal editorial boards competent? Some disquieting data with implications for research on social work practice. Research on Social Work Practice, 2, 487-496.
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Almost two decades ago we began Children and Youth Services Review with the objective of providing a forum for the critical analysis and assessment of social service programs designed to serve young people throughout the world. Our concern was the absence of rigorous methodological studies and critical policy analysis in the child welfare field. Although a number of journals addressed child welfare concerns, most were oriented toward popular discussion of timely issues rather than the development of a scientific and scholarly knowledge base for the child welfare field.
How has Children and Youth Services Review faired in terms of its aspirations? According to Journal Citation Reports published by the Institute for Scientific Information, Children and Youth Services Review emerges as the premier research journal in the child welfare field. Articles which appear in the Review are more often cited by subsequent published papers than articles which appear in other journals in the field. The Review has achieved scores, calculated by the Institute for Scientific Information, substantially higher than similar journals including Child Welfare, Child and Youth Care Quarterly, Adolescence, Adoptions and Foster Care, Children Today, Child and Youth Services, Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Foster Care Journal, Child Psychiatry and Human Development, and others.
We did not set out to achieve high scores. In fact, when we began publication these scores were not available. Rather, we have administered the Review in a fashion designed to publish papers that contribute to cumulative knowledge development in the field. The scores indicate that we have been successful in our effort. The Institute for Scientific Information's Journal Citation Report provides statistical data on how often articles appearing in a particular journal are used in subsequent research (as indicated by citations). The Report indicates that articles appearing in Children and Youth Services Review have been more often cited than those appearing in other child welfare journals.
During its first nineteen years Children and Youth Services Review has developed into one of the world's major research publications in the child welfare field. The Review relies on the quality of work submitted and the careful and demanding reviews of editors and reviewers. During the last several years the Review has experienced a very high number of submissions for the few papers it has been able to publish. Although the Review has been accepting less than 10 percent of the papers it receives, it has developed a year long back log. Therefore, beginning in 1998, Children and Youth Services Review is published ten times a year. We hope with this expanded coverage to reduce the backlog of articles and to shorten the time between acceptance of a paper and its publication.
As the table below provides the impact scores of social work journals for the last 16 years. As can be seen several journals, including Children and Youth Services Review consistently achieve a high impact factor score.