Neophilia Ranking of Scientific Journals

Mikko Packalen, Jay Bhattacharya

NBER Working Paper No. 21579
Issued in September 2015
NBER Program(s):Health Care, Health Economics, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

The ranking of scientific journals is important because of the signal it sends to scientists about what is considered most vital for scientific progress. Existing ranking systems focus on measuring the influence of a scientific paper (citations)—these rankings do not reward journals for publishing innovative work that builds on new ideas. We propose an alternative ranking based on the proclivity of journals to publish papers that build on new ideas, and we implement this ranking via a text-based analysis of all published biomedical papers dating back to 1946. Our results show that our neophilia ranking is distinct from citation-based rankings. Prior theoretical work suggests an active role for our neophilia index in science policy. Absent an explicit incentive to pursue novel science, scientists under-invest in innovative work because of a coordination problem: for work on a new idea to flourish, many scientists must decide to adopt it in their work. Rankings that are based purely on influence thus do not provide sufficient incentives for publishing innovative work. By contrast, adoption of the neophilia index as part of journal-ranking procedures by funding agencies and university administrators would provide an explicit incentive for journals to publish innovative work and thus help solve the coordination problem by increasing scientists’ incentives to pursue innovative work.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21579

Published: Mikko Packalen & Jay Bhattacharya, 2017. "Neophilia ranking of scientific journals," Scientometrics, vol 110(1), pages 43-64. citation courtesy of

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