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Journal of Applied Psychology Not Most Cited I-O Psychology Journal

2017 June 21

2016 impact factors for academic journals across all of science were released last week by Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters), as part of their Journal Citation Reports database. There are a couple of interesting tidbits, particularly in relation to Journal of Applied Psychology.

Here is the top 15 of the list for the “applied psychology” category of journal and their impact factors:

Artist's rendering of the current struggle.

Artist’s rendering of the current struggle. And I really struggled with whether Ryu should be punching JAP or PP.

  1. 7.733: Journal of Management
  2. 6.959: Annual Review of OP and OB
  3. 4.783: Organizational Research Methods
  4. 4.362: Personnel Psychology
  5. 4.130: Journal of Applied Psychology
  6. 3.607: Journal of Organizational Behavior
  7. 3.400: Work and Stress
  8. 3.385: Journal of Consumer Psychology
  9. 3.139: Journal of Occupational and OP
  10. 3.125: Media Psychology
  11. 3.094: Leadership Quarterly
  12. 2.917: Intl Review of Sport and Exercise Psych
  13. 2.809: Psychology of Sport and Exercise
  14. 2.722: Applied Psych-Health and Well Being
  15. 2.694: Journal of Business and Psychology

Impact factors are a really coarse metric of success – the average number of citations to articles within a journal – so they only give a general sense of how “impactful” a journal really is. Remember, articles are also often cited because they’re both highly visible and highly flawed.  You might also notice that JOM is not really “applied psychology”, and that other types of applied psychology, like media psych and consumer psych, are also in the list.

The list led me to two observations:

One, Personnel Psychology is now more highly cited than Journal of Applied Psychology.  Considering JAP is I-O’s flagship APA-published journal (PP is published by Wiley), this is particularly interesting. What practices do you think have led JAP to lose ground to PP?  My suspicion is that JAP slightly more frequently publishes theoretical advancements that no one except the people researching them care about. After all, the narrower your topic, the fewer people will find it relevant to their own work, and theory in both JAP and PP is pretty narrow these days.  That doesn’t imply that the quality of the work is poorer, just that I-O theory is increasingly irrelevant to anyone except I-Os.  Whether that’s a “problem” or not is a matter of perspective.

Two, Journal of Business and Psychology appears at 15th in this list, with an IF of 2.694.  This is dramatically higher than it was last year and I think is a great reflection of the progressive editorial practices put in place by editor Steven Rogelberg. Among “core general audience I-O publications,” this means it’s in third place, behind PP and in front of Journal of Vocational Behavior.  If I were to make a wager, I’d bet that it will be even higher next year. Is it on track to surpass both JAP and PP one day?

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. June 21, 2017

    My understanding is that Journal of Applied Psychology publishes a lot more papers.
    For example, check out this page (it’s 2015 data, but the points remain):

    It says that PPsych had 69 citable papers (over 3 years) and JAP had 238 (over 3 years). I.e., more than 3 times as many papers in JAP.

    So, it seems that in order for PPsych to maintain this level of influence, it may receive fewer submission and/or it is more selective.

    In terms of total impact on the field, papers in JAP received 1278 citations compared to PPsych getting 383 citations. So JAP is having a lot more impact on the field, because it publishes more; albeit, average citations per paper is slightly lower in JAP than PPsych.

    • June 22, 2017

      Good point! I suppose the headline would be more accurate as “most cited per article.” But I am not sure about the comparison; Personnel Psychology tends to publish more I-side work which is on average cited a bit less frequently than O-side work (see So it’s hard to say. Having said that, I think both PP and JAP suffer similar issues these days – I will be interested to see how other journals move in relation to them both over the next few years.

  2. Paul Thoresen permalink
    June 24, 2017

    go Annual Review of OP and OB!
    and of course props to Journal of Business and Psychology

  3. scheherazade permalink
    July 9, 2017

    A couple of quick thoughts on the rankings:
    1) JOM has pretty much gamed their impact factor by sitting on papers for up to two years before formally publishing them. Up to that point they are available as “online first” and start accumulating citations and a reputation.
    2) JAP is probably suffering a little from the editor’s strange belief that the replication crisis and general data fabrication are not a problem for the field and his journal. He has repeatedly stated at conferences that he sees no real problem and that meta-analysis will resolve dodgy data problems. It is perhaps no surprise that JAP is not taken as seriously as a result. The heavy theory and analytic complexity requirements that characterize JAP in recent years is probably also not helping.
    3) Both JOM and JAP seem to also be publishing a lot of review articles (theory and meta-analytic) and I imagine that this is also helping their citation rates in both the articles that get cited in those review articles and in the likelihood that review articles get cited in future.
    4) JOM would also have had a much less impressive impact factor if they had bothered to retract the heavily cited Walumbwa papers that report all those impossible statistics.

  4. July 10, 2017

    Perhaps we should use approaches from our sister disciplines – Industrial Engineering and Operations Research and use Process Capability indexes that avoid the sterile precision of point estimate impact factors. They can combine the impact and uncertainty in their process capability indicators (e.g. CpM, CpK)

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