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Publish (in A-Star Journals) or Perish?

For the Excellence in Research for Australia initiative, which is "designed to assess how to divvy up scarce public funds," the Australian federal government has come up with a new ranking system for academic journals to measure success and rank the overall performance of universities across the country, according to ABC Radio National. As part of the new system, journals are assigned to hierarchical categories; they can be A-star-, A-, B-, or C-ranked journals. Universities are then allocated parts of the Australian Block Research Funds pool based on the number of publications their faculty publish in these better-ranked journals. ABC Radio National says that, as a result of this new system, "there's big money at stake and the choice of publications which rate the highest is highly controversial." Notably, ABC adds, critics of this new system suggest that "academics will now be chasing highly ranked journals at the expense of focusing on the quality of their work." This week, The Chronicle of Higher Education's Jennifer Howard says that these controversial journal rankings are not only affecting research funds, but also researchers' careers. Howard says some publications that were once highly regarded in certain disciplines have suddenly descended the journal ranks based on the Australian government's assessment methodologies. The University of Hawaii-Manoa's Craig Howes, who is an editor at an Australian academic journal, tells the Chronicle that, for his field, "no one who knows anything about the journals … had anything to do with our current ranking."