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Government & Politics

SPA-hosted Journal Political Analysis Named Most Impactful in Field

SPA Professor and journal Editor Jeff Gill credits its selectivity and methodological focus

The SPA-hosted journal Political Analysis, edited by SPA Distinguished Professor of Government Jeff Gill, has been named the #1 two-year impact factor journal in political science (out of 181), according to analytics firm Clarivate, which ranks all academic journals. Its impact score of 8.6 places it significantly ahead of the second-ranked entry, and leads the so-called “Big Three” political science journals (Journal of Politics, American Political Science Review, and American Journal of Political Science).

Political Analysis, which publishes peer-reviewed articles that advance the general area of political methodology, is the official journal of the Society for Political Methodology and the Political Methodology Section of the American Political Science Association. The journal, created in the mid-1990s under Oxford University Press, moved to Cambridge University Press in 2016. Previously ranked #5 in Clarivate’s list, Political Analysis has occupied a critical niche in the field of political science, producing top-tier work by quantitative political scientists who do statistical modeling of political data.

“The reason we do well, I think, in citations, is because non-methodological political scientists want to apply these tools with their data,” said Gill, who has served as editor since January 2018.

Clarivate determines impact factor by dividing a journal’s total number of citations by the number of its articles published, in a two-year period. “If your articles are highly impactful, they are generating citations,” said Gill. “This measure gets the most attention because it is the simplest and easiest to understand.”

In any given year, Political Analysis publishes 50-60 articles, roughly a fourth of the volume of larger journals, and is highly selective, accepting about 15% of its approximately 200 annual submissions. For reference, the Big Three journals, which are equally selective but cover a more general scope of political science content, receive about 1400-1500 submissions per year.

“We don’t compare ourselves to them, because we have a different mission,” Gill continued. “But I have to say, to have a higher impact factor than those three is quite substantial. They also publish a lot more articles, so when you think about the ratio, you can see the difference.”

The journal’s success, said Gill, should reflect not only on the school and the university, but on the high-quality SPA PhD students who help produce the quarterly publication: Le Bao, Abdullah Yasir Atalan, and Selim Yaman. Their assignment gives them a primer on the world of academic publishing.

 “It’s not just that it’s good to have the journal here,” Gill explained. “It benefits the PhD students very directly. Every PhD student I’ve ever known who worked for a major journal went on to a really successful publication career, because they know how the process works: how to deal with editors, how to deal with reviewers, and what the communication is like.”

The SPA Department of Government’s burgeoning political methodology program, just established three years ago, has benefitted from these students’ and others’ specialized expertise. Bao, specifically, replicates all of the statistical models in submissions before publication, building his personal skill set and adding value that unquestionably contributes to the journal’s top ranking.

“These students who work for the journal are really helping SPA,” said Gill.

Gill joined American University in July 2017, following appointments at Washington University in St. Louis and Harvard University. He founded the SPA Center for Data Science in 2018. His personal research applies Bayesian modeling and data analysis to questions in the social and biomedical sciences. He and colleagues are currently working on multiple grants from the Department of Defense to develop synthetic blood, and will be teaching a graduate course in Bayesian statistics (GOV 618) at American University in the fall.