Australian academia is again in the throes of a journal ranking exercise. We went through this last year in preparation for the previous government’s Research Quality Framework (RQF), but the new government wants to redo things for its Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA).

Again the journals must be placed into four tiers — the top 5% into tier A*, the next 15% into tier A, the next 30% into tier B, and the last 50% into tier C. However, this time the Australian Research Council has done the ranking; they have re-ranked all the mathematical sciences journals. This has involved

- a substantial reduction in the total number of journals that the ARC will currently accept (they have, of course, correspondingly reduced the number of journals we can place into bands A* and A); and
- the use of impact factors to rank journals in applied mathematics and statistics, and apparently also in mathematical physics.

Regarding the number of “research outlets” that the ARC is currently willing to regard as mathematical science journals, let me try to give you a sense of the scale of the changes. According to my calculations, the new ARC list of ranked journals allocates 538 journals to pure mathematics, 211 journals to applied mathematics, 28 journals to mathematical physics, and 169 journals to statistics (including probability), making a total of 946 journals for the mathematical sciences. However, the list produced last year allocated a total of 1369 journals to the mathematical sciences. (These journals were a subset of those currently covered by MathSciNet.) That is 45% more than the ARC list. On this basis, and making some assumptions about uniformity of distribution among the four research areas, we should expect the ARC’s list to contain only two-thirds the number of journals in tiers A*, A and B as the previous list; and it does.

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