Chances are that you, Dear Reader, are a student of international affairs, that you aspire to be one, that you occasionally read academic journals. And you, I’m sure, will occasionally have wondered, How many people actually read that stuff?
You just got an answer to your question, it seems.
Taylor & Francis, the academic publishing empire, has made the download statistics for journal articles available. T&F publishes more than 1,ooo journals, among them several leading international affairs and security studies journals, including The Journal of Strategic Studies, Security Studies, Survival, The RUSI Journal, and Terrorism and Political Violence.
You can now find the download numbers for individual articles under “most read,” then “Citations,“* but I think only for those articles that are listed there.
A few caveats. First, downloads don’t reflect actual readers. People may download several versions from different machines and then not read them. Second, downloads don’t refect academic impact. Citations continue to be a more important measure. Third, the stats are probably biased. The RUSI Journal readership, for instance, is understated because content is available elsewhere as well, although the majority of readers get content from T&F, the editors tell me. Fourth, we don’t know when T&F started counting (and they won’t give this information out, as it is covered by confidentiality agreements with the proprietors of the journals, their marketing team told us). Finally some articles are overrated by downloads: for instance a recent article by your blogger, “Cyber War Will Not Take Place,” was downloaded so many times that on its own, it would outrank all combined top-ten downloads of all individual journals on the list — obviously such a disproportional amount of attention cannot be deserved: perhaps it says more about hype and the quality of the cyber security debate than about the article itself; the article is also not behind a paywall and available for free.
So what does all this mean?
Several things. One is that you can now compare. Between journals, at least between T&F’s periodicals, but also to other outlets. And of course we at KoW could not resist comparing the stats to our own page views. And here’s what that means: blogs matter for academics.
It’s been a while that some of us have contributed on these pages. The workload is cruel. Blog posts have a short shelf-life. And do my colleagues — those on the relevant committees — really read an academic blog with a funny name? In fact just last week I considered calling it a day and stopping blogging altogether. But, well, have a look at that grey bar in the graph. The numbers pretty much speak for themselves. Yes, it’s a blog, it’s free, it’s shorter, it’s crisper, and we’re comparing apples and oranges. But still: note, again, that we don’t know when T&F started counting, but if they started two or even one year ago, then most of KoW’s accumulated views are more recent (and the blog’s stats don’t even include views by more than 1,700 RSS-feed-subscribers).
T&F’s logo once played on academic publishing’s function of fueling debates. The flames, some will no doubt conclude, are increasingly fanned by specialized blogs, not by obscure journals behind a pay-wall. But be careful. I wouldn’t draw this conclusion that quickly. Flaming yes, but the quality-debate is mostly still happening in serious journals. That is unlikely to change any time soon.
Yet one thing is certain: if you’re a scholar, blogging can be a win-win: you’re doing a public service, contributing to the wider debate, getting more eyeballs to read your article, and you’d be boosting the broader impact of scholarship.
* UPDATE: T&F, for unknown reasons, has stopped publishing these statistics for all its journals a few days after this post was out (probably no relation). Therefore I’m linking to my PDF printout of the stats.