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Review of "Are Scopus journal field classifications ever misleading?"

Published onOct 08, 2023
Review of "Are Scopus journal field classifications ever misleading?"
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Are Scopus journal field classifications ever misleading?
Are Scopus journal field classifications ever misleading?

Journal field classifications in Scopus are used for citation-based indicators and by authors choosing appropriate journals to submit to. Whilst prior research has found that Scopus categories are occasionally misleading, it is not known how this varies for different journal types. In response, we assessed whether specialist, cross-field and general academic journals sometimes have publication practices that do not match their Scopus classifications. For this, we compared the Scopus narrow fields of journals with the fields that best fit their articles' titles and abstracts. We also conducted qualitative follow-up to distinguish between Scopus classification errors and misleading journal aims. The results show sharp field differences in the extent to which both cross-field and apparently specialist journals publish articles that match their Scopus narrow fields, and the same for general journals. The results also suggest that a few journals have titles and aims that do not match their contents well, and that some large topics spread themselves across many relevant disciplines. Thus, the likelihood that a journal's Scopus narrow fields reflect its contents varies substantially by field (although without systematic field trends) and some cross-field topics seem to cause difficulties in appropriately classifying relevant journals. These issues undermine citation-based indicators that rely on journal-level classification and may confuse scholars seeking publishing venues.

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This paper studies the accuracy of the field classification of journals in the Scopus database. Below I provide some comments on the paper.

I found the paper a bit challenging to read. I needed to read some sentences two or three times to understand what the authors mean. The paper would benefit from further streamlining of the text.


I struggled in particular to understand research question 4. I still don’t understand it, and I wonder whether this research question is essential or whether it can be removed from the paper.

I also think the paper would benefit from a better title. I find the current title (“Are Scopus journal field classifications ever misleading?”) unclear. Of course the answer to the question in the title is yes. Classifications will never be perfect, so they will always be misleading in at least a few cases. A better title might be “The accuracy of Scopus journal field classifications”.

“The publishing practice of a journal was identified through the terms in its title and abstract”: This sentence is inaccurate. A journal does not have an abstract. Instead of the title and abstract of a journal, I think the authors mean the titles and abstracts of the articles in a journal.

Figure 2: I don’t understand what the authors mean by “interdisciplinary journals” in the label along the horizontal axis.

Competing interests: I am working together with Stephen Pinfield, one of the authors of this paper.

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