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Wednesday, October 18, 2017


80th Annual Meeting of the VHB

May 23-25, 2017

Magdeburg, Germany

Handelsblatt ranking

Declaration of the Executive Board of the German Academic Association for Business Research from 31 August 2012


In recent years the Executive Board has intensively tackled questions concerning the journal ranking VHB JOURQUAL and drafted the Comments on Using VHB Jourqual Responsibly, which states:


“The ranking refers exclusively to publications in journals. Another part of business research is published in other media, such as monographs, or appears in the development of prototypes. This research work is not covered by JOURQUAL, however, and thus not evaluated. The same goes for other work by scientists, such as teaching, and services in self-management and for the researcher community. For these reasons, the VHB Executive Board deliberately declared itself against a person ranking based on journal rankings, a stance which remains unchanged.”


While journal rankings constitute a key orientation aid, once again the VHB Board’s negative stance on person rankings (which also corresponds to Recommendation 6 of the German Research Foundation (DFG), Proposals for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice) was also supported by the Advisory Board and recently communicated to Handelsblatt’s editorial department once more. We explained to Handelsblatt that journal rankings are used as a data corpus in person rankings, for instance, and merely state the average article quality as a guide for the evaluation of certain publications. These do not permit any unequivocal conclusions regarding the quality of individual articles by individual researchers. The individual reading of research articles for a quality assessment is thus by no means superfluous. We also explained that representatives of extremely different subjects are ranked in the Handelsblatt ranking, even though the subjects and research outlets are not comparable in themselves. We also informed Handelsblatt about VHB JOURQUAL’s on-going development process and pointed out that with VHB JOURQUAL 3, which is due in 2013, the association will deliberately be avoiding a comparison of subjects and the rating will only consist of sub-ratings for single subjects in future. A large number of our 2,000 plus members participated in this discursive development process.  


We proposed that Handelsblatt factor our meticulous development process into a fundamental contemplation of the person ranking, or at least in a critical, methodical contemplation of their person rankings. We would have given it a positive evaluation if Handelsblatt had awaited the methodically improved version of VHB JOURQUAL, even if the fundamental misgivings regarding a person ranking cannot necessarily be ruled out as a result.


Let us hope that in the publication of the business studies university Handelsblatt ranking it is clearly emphasized that it is an acknowledgement of a certain kind of research achievement in both the person ranking and the ranking of the faculties, namely the attempt at an – even if incomplete – appreciation of the international scientific visibility of individual colleagues and the faculties they represent in scientific journals.   


Naturally, the VHB Board is also aware that the negative stance on person rankings is not shared by all members of the association. A large number of colleagues also approve of a publicly visible measurement of the research achievements of individuals by Handelsblatt. Moreover, there are also different points of view in the faculties that more or less bind the faculty members. Against this backdrop, the VHB Board has refrained from expressing a clear recommendation for or against participating in the Handelsblatt ranking.  


With regard to the substantial observable impact of rankings, we also have to keep asking ourselves the question – regardless of the Handelsblatt ranking – as to which structures need improving in the faculties and universities to correct false incentives. This is a topic that keeps cropping up on the agenda, both for the next VHB Board meeting and for the major discussion with members at the 2013 annual conference.