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Reflections on IMR from the new Co-editor
Article Type: Editorial From: International Marketing Review, Volume 25, Issue 3.
There are numerous changes afoot in the world of academic marketing journals, and the terrain is constantly shifting. New editors of journals are popping up everywhere: just this year, I became the new Co-editor of International Marketing Review (IMR), Gordon Greenley and Nick Lee took over the reins at the European Journal of Marketing (IMR's sister journal), and David Griffith became the new Editor of the Journal of International Marketing (JIM). Last year, several marketing journals published their first issues under new editors, including the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science (David Stewart), the International Journal of Research in Marketing (Stefan Stremersch and Don Lehmann), and the Journal of Marketing Research (Joel Huber). Even the Journal of International Business Studies has a new Area Editor for International Marketing and Supply Chain Management (Dan Bello).
Change is needed, of course. It stops stagnation - it brings with it new ideas, fresh perspectives and motivation. New marketing practices, new marketing phenomena, and new research methods and philosophies are constantly emerging, and periodic changes to the composition of editorial teams are needed to ensure that transformations in the marketing environment are not overlooked or ignored. Change for the sake of change, however, is dangerous. One risks losing experience and with it, necessary institutional knowledge, understanding of best practice, and instinctive appreciation of how to deal with crises. In this respect, then, I am very pleased to be sharing my editorial duties with Professor Jeryl Whitelock, who continues as Co-editor of IMR. It remains to be seen whether we can further raise IMR's reputation and enhance the impact that IMR has on the discipline of international marketing. Yet that is what we intend to do.
In this respect, it is typical that, when a new editor joins a journal, they publish a paper in which they describe their ambitions for the journal, and lay out their new editorial policy. In some respects, I shall follow this tradition - but only to a point. I do not make editorial policy in a vacuum; editorial policy is something that is jointly developed by Jeryl and I. Accordingly, in the following, I do not aggressively map out how I am changing the journal's approach to research and publications; nor do I robustly explain how I am set on "improving things" in the journal. IMR has been in safe hands for many years, and while changes will come (they are practically inevitable when fresh blood arrives), they are likely to be subtle and behind the scenes. Instead, I have chosen to share with you my reflections on a number of specific fronts.
First, I introduce the issue of IMR's influence in the international marketing research arena. Here, I raise some pertinent points with respect to the desirability of consolidating IMR's citation ratings - and how this may contribute to the journal's mission. Next, I discuss the types of research IMR welcomes. I follow this with a comment on the IMR submission process, discuss the importance of IMR's reviewers, and introduce the new editorial board. I close with some final observations.
The core mission of IMR is to push back the boundaries of thinking, theory, and practice in international marketing. Making a difference is the raison d'être of the journal. Accordingly, the success of IMR in achieving its goals can be established by looking at the extent to which the ideas presented in IMR shape future international marketing research initiatives, enlighten theory development in international marketing, and impact on international marketing practice. Objective measures of IMR's long-term success in this respect are not available. Instead, it is currently the vogue to use citation counts as proxy measures of "impact." One of the most frequently used citation indicators is the "Impact factor." This is calculated by counting the number of articles published in a two-year period, and counting the number of citations those articles received the following year. Clearly, this two-year impact factor rewards work that generates almost immediate attention in the literature. Yet, IMR prides itself on its long-term contribution to theory and practice, an impact not readily measurable using the formal impact factor.
Accordingly, I have used the calculations underpinning the two-year impact factor in order to assess the long-term impact of IMR. Calculating IMR's five-year impact factor (i.e. number of papers published from 2000 to 2005, divided by the number of citations these papers received in 2006) results in a figure of 0.79. Similarly, IMR's 2006 life-time impact factor  is 0.77. Over 53 percent of IMR articles that were cited in journals in 2006 came from volumes published prior to 1997. In other words, using data on IMR papers that were cited in 2006, IMR's influence becomes greater the longer the period under consideration, with most 2006 IMR citations focused on research that is over ten years old. This is a solid indication that IMR is achieving its mission well. IMR publishes research that is fundamental and "slow burning": it shapes research direction for many years while not always being immediately popular. This makes sense, since it can take a long time for researchers to shift focus - current projects and research commitments need to run their course. The life-cycle of "big" ideas often contains a long period of gestation.
Needless to say, I am proud to be involved in the co-editorship of a journal that makes a solid long-term difference to marketing academia. Nevertheless, it is instructional to look at the impact factor scores for journals operating in the same field as IMR, and for this reason I provide equivalent data for the JIM (Table I).
Despite the positive messages that emerge from this analysis of the short- and long-term influence of the body of work published in IMR, I am keen to see IMR improve its impact scores, including the "two-year" impact factor that is most commonly reported. Why? Four reasons occur to me, the first three of which revolve around the fact that many researchers equate "Impact Factor" with "Journal Quality":
In some small way, it may be that increasing the perceived quality of IMR may enhance researchers' perceptions of the general quality of international marketing journal outlets. This may help overcome researchers' perceptions that there is limited scope for publishing in quality outlets if one pursues an agenda of research in international marketing.
Higher impact factors may benefit IMR more directly, by persuading researchers to send their best research to IMR.
Similarly, it may assist IMR in recruiting high-quality ad hoc reviewers.
Finally, maintaining or increasing the short- and longer-term impact factor scores will provide evidence that IMR's influence is stable or growing. Although imperfect, this kind of information will tell us much about whether we are achieving the objectives of the journal.
Types of research
Recently, Malhotra et al. (2005) have reviewed the output and content of IMR (from 1983 to 2003). In their review, they provide summaries of the topics that have been studied in IMR, the special issues that have been covered, and author composition of papers. There remains the issue of the types of papers that we welcome here at IMR. In order to illustrate the issue, I have looked at the 34 papers published in the 2007 volume of IMR, and I have classified the papers according to how the authors have gone about undertaking their research. By far the largest group of papers (24 papers) published quantitative empirical research. This is not too surprising - empirical quantitative research is the dominant type of published paper in marketing research. A much smaller group of four papers published qualitative empirical research. Five papers were integrative literature reviews. Only one contribution in 2007 was solely a conceptual paper (Viswanathan and Dickson, 2007). As Stewart (2007, p. 2) notes, conceptual papers "are especially difficult to write, but often have extraordinary impact on the direction of thought and research in a field." Like Stewart, I welcome papers of this nature.
This profile of the types of research that were published in 2007 should not be taken as a direct indication of our preferences for these different kinds of research. As I mentioned, I personally would welcome more good quality conceptual papers, built on strong theoretical grounds - papers that really push at the boundaries of international marketing thought. However, I suspect that the reason only one IMR paper published in 2007 was solely conceptual in nature is because papers of this kind are not straightforward to write. I would also encourage submission of syntheses of the literature within various sub-domains of the international marketing research field. In this respect, it is rare to see meta-analyses within the international marketing research literature: contributions on this front would be most welcome.
I am also happy to consider "opinion pieces," as well as "methodological contributions." The latter could include short methods pieces, such as the assessment of a measure's invariance across national cultures, or short descriptions of tests of models (i.e. model replications).
Online manuscript submission process
IMR has now moved to an online manuscript submission and management system. The system is still bedding-in. In essence, authors submit their papers online, the editors identify a selection of reviewers, and the automated system sends the papers out to review, sends reminders to reviewers, and collates the reviewers' comments. Tracking of papers and communications is straightforward.
Reviewers, once contacted, register with the online system, and can then access the paper from any computer in any location. Furthermore, reviewers can also submit their reviews online, which will simplify the reviewing process greatly.
Overall, we are very excited about the changes that the new system will bring. From an editor's perspective, the system certainly makes the management of the review process more straightforward. The overall effect should be that the reviewing process will be speeded up, and will be less cumbersome.
The review board
Prior to becoming co-editor of IMR, I sat on the Editorial Review Panel of IMR. On my arrival as Co-editor, Jeryl immediately raised the issue of what we should do in terms of refreshing the composition of the editorial team. In the end, we chose to recruit a new set of editorial board members. Those familiar with the composition of the previous team will see that a few of the past editorial team have stepped down, and that there are numerous new faces on the board (together with many familiar ones). That said, the new members are not new to the art of publishing, all are acknowledged experts in areas of relevance to the journal, and all are well known in international marketing circles. Clearly, while the newly appointed editorial team will be shouldering much of the reviewing for IMR, there will be occasions when reviewers will be sought who are not on IMR's editorial board.
Here, of course, we rely on the good will of ad hoc reviewers, many of whom are eager to become involved in IMR's review process. I have been greatly heartened by the support I have received from those people I have contacted to help in this way. By far the majority of academics around the globe appear to understand that in order for the peer review system to work, we must all, from time-to-time, agree to review papers.
In this respect, Jeryl and I have agreed that there is a need to formally recognize the excellent work that our best reviewers do. Authors are the life-blood of any journal - and IMR is no exception. Rightly so, authors reap the benefits of publications: their reputation is enhanced, their citations increase. Yet hidden behind the published papers is the team of hard working men and women who reviewed this published work (and who reviewed the work that was rejected). The reviewers play a critical role in helping to maintain IMR's high standards. Most reviewers are willing and committed: the majority are happy to provide detailed comments to authors to help them re-shape their papers. Even with papers that are ultimately rejected, I feel confident that the authors gain a great deal by reading the reviewers' comments. Usually, the reviewers are key researchers in the sub-discipline of interest, and their extensive comments are finely tailored to the paper under consideration.
The commitment of IMR's reviewers cannot be underestimated. The job is time consuming, mentally taxing, and is unpaid. Their work is often instrumental in helping authors publish their manuscripts. They often work to short deadlines, and have to juggle reviewing with their other responsibilities (e.g. teaching, their own research). All of this is greatly appreciated by Jeryl and I. As a result, we have decided to honor a selection of reviewers on a regular basis. That is, every three years, the co-editors of IMR will identify those reviewers who have reviewed the most, have been the most constructive, and have provided the most timely reviews. The names of the first group of reviewers to be acknowledged in this way were listed in IMR Volume 25, Issue 1.
I am very much enjoying the challenge of co-editing the IMR - and it is a challenge. This is my first editorial appointment, and I'm still learning the ropes. When I took on the role in November 2007, Professor Rob Morgan, who was Co-editor of IMR at that time, assured me that the job would be manageable. "Don't worry," was the message, "you'll manage just fine," or words to that effect. Well, nothing has broken yet.
John W. Cadogan
Although it is usual to report impact factors that are calculated over two-years, this two-year impact factor figure is not necessarily the most appropriate figure to use. For instance, the ISI web of knowledge Journal Citation Reports web pages (where I sourced much of my data) suggest that impact factors should be calculated over longer periods of time in research areas where dissemination and response to research take longer.
I calculated IMR's 2006 life-time impact factor using data on the total number of times IMR articles were cited in 2006 (488 times) and the total number of articles that IMR has published since its inception in 1983-2006 inclusive (634 articles): 488/634 = 0.77.
Malhotra, N.K., Wu, L. and Whitelock, J. (2005), "An overview of the first 21 years of research in the International Marketing Review, 1983-2003", International Marketing Review, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp.391-8.
Stewart, D.W. (2007), "New and improved! A look at the future", Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 1-4.
Viswanathan, N.K. and Dickson, P.R. (2007), "The fundamentals of standardizing global marketing strategy", International Marketing Review, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 46-63.