Every academic discipline has its own journals.  Scholars read the journals of their discipline, assign articles from them to students, and contribute to them through research and writing.  Part of socialization to any discipline is developing a familiarity with the journals of one’s discipline, acquiring a commitment to their success, and learning to recognize which are the most influential.

Academic journal articles normally go through a peer review process, where manuscripts are submitted and evaluated by other scholars prior to acceptance. The higher the proportion of articles rejected by a journal, the more selective it is presumed to be. Top journals have lower acceptance rates.  But a more common way of rating journals is by impact, where the rating is based on how frequently the average article in a given journal is subsequently cited by other scholars.

Unfortunately, neither the acceptance rates nor the citation index information would appear to be available for missiology journals.

An alternative way of evaluating missiology journals, it seemed to me, would be to survey missiologists about which missiology journals they actually read the most.

In June of 2010, I asked 810 missiologists, members of the American Society of Missiology and of the Evangelical Missiological Society, to respond to an on-line survey. Seventy-five percent responded (610). Among other things they were asked to report on the frequency with which they read a variety of missiology journals. The frequency was measured on a 5-point likert scale ranging from “Never” (scored as 0) to  “Every Issue” (scored as 4).  Since the ASM and EMS have divergent, although overlapping memberships, the following rating shows the average reading frequency score for EMS members, ASM members, and ALL missiologists combined.

Frequency With Which Missiologists Read the Following Journals

Since three journals are read significantly more often by missiologists,  perhaps each should be considered as candidate for the top missiology journal.

The Evangelical Missions Quarterly is read more frequently by members of the Evangelical Missiological Society (N=329) than any other.  And, had we surveyed practicing missionaries, it is quite likely that EMQ would be number one on this list. Insofar as missiology is defined by its service to those who are doing mission, then clearly EMQ is at the very top!! But insofar as we consider missiology an academic discipline, forging the establishment of new knowledge through research and peer-reviewed processes, then EMQ falls lower on the scale.  By comparison with other contenders for this top position, EMQ has minimal social presence in the world of scholarship, as measured by its small presence in academic libraries.  According to Worldcat, Missiology and IBMR are present in roughly 15 times the number of academic libraries as those which have EMQ.  Insofar as we consider missiology an academic discipline, EMQ cannot be rated the top.  In any case, when including the reading results from all missiologists, EMQ comes in third.

This leaves our two main contenders:

Missiology: An International Review is read more frequently by members of the American Society of Missiology (N=350) than any other, which makes sense because it is the official journal of the ASM.

International Bulletin of Missionary Research (IBMR) is read more frequently by all missiologists combined (N=610), and at a statistically significant higher level.

Other Factors to Consider:

Missiology and IBMR are present in roughly 500 academic libraries worldwide.  Both are accessible in full-text form through ATLA — which most academic libraries have. By contrast EMQ is indexed but not available as full text in ATLA. Missiology  allows longer academic articles than do either IBMR or EMQ. Furthermore, the processes it employs for article submission and review by other scholars better conforms to academic ideals of “peer reviewed” assessment than the processes employed by EMQ or IBMR — which sometimes rely on a single editor-scholar to render a judgment.  IBMR includes more historical treatments and statistical summaries than Missiology. Missiology has more cultural and theological articles. Both IBMR and Missiology have high reputations for excellent scholarship.

As measured by length of article and by conformity to best practices in peer review, Missiology edges out IBMR. As measured by missiological readership, IBMR slightly outperforms Missiology. As measured by total subscriptions, IBMR significantly outperforms both EMQ and Missiology.

After taking into account various factors, this judge, at least, calls the winner, by a nose, The International Bulletin of Missionary Research!