Surplus and Indicator

  • Katie Vann Society for Social Studies of Science
Keywords: scholarly publishing, indicators, academic evaluation, academic labor, recognition, political economy of publishing, publishing platforms


This essay offers a perspective on journal impact factor (JIF) centrism in academic evaluation from the vantage point of academic publishing in an increasingly data-driven scholarly environment.  The political implications and orientations to the JIF are thought through with respect both to commercial publishing industry consolidation and to the reliance of public-sector scholarly communities on (oligopolistic) commercial academic publishing houses.  The author proposes that centrism to the JIF as a legitimizing indicator and incentivizing norm leads to two diametrically opposed forms of “surplus”: for academic communities, surplus emerges in the form of layers of scholarly knowledge effects/impact and labor, which, because they remain foreclosed to formal professional recognition, are inadvertently reconstructed as dispensable (waste); for private sector publishing companies––whose contribution to the publishing process consists foremost in providing scalable content management/distribution platforms and in transforming unique manuscript content into standardized digital objects that are amenable to indexing, aggregation, and comparative calculation––surplus emerges in the form of monetary surplus (profit).  The essay describes the inner workings of these phenomena.

Author Biography

Katie Vann, Society for Social Studies of Science

Katie Vann is the Managing Editor for the Society for Social Studies of Science.  She holds a PhD in Communication from the University of California, San Diego.

17 Feb 2017
Thematic Collections