Blyth, Eric, Shardlow, Steven M., Lyons, Karen, Masson, Helen, Shaw, Ian and White, Susan (2010) Measuring the quality of peer-reviewed publications in social work: Impact factors - liberation or liability? Social Work Education, 29 (2). pp. 120-136. ISSN 0261-5479

Systems for measuring the quality of publications in peer-reviewed academic journals have achieved importance in the ‘audit culture’ to which academia worldwide has become increasingly subjected. In the United Kingdom this debate has focused on government proposals to give greater emphasis to bibliometrics (counts of journal articles and their citations) as a measurement of research quality, in respect of publications in the emergent Research Excellence Framework (REF) which is set to replace the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). This approach impacts on social work educators who are the main producers of papers published in peer-reviewed academic journals. It affects their publishing behaviour by pressurising them to publish their work in journals that are regarded as being prestigious, for which ‘high impact factor’ journals as determined by Thomson Reuters - a private commercial information management enterprise with headquarters in the United Sates – has become a proxy for quality. In this paper the authors describe and critique the Thomson Reuters system as it applies to social work and propose an alternate fair, inclusive and transparent system for assessing the quality of publications based on peer evaluation and incorporating an ethical approach consistent with the discipline’s professional values.

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