This topic might be less thought of when applying for a National Interest Waiver, but it’s still important and will help a USCIS officer understand the impact your work better if you’re able to correctly state the ranking of the journal you contribute to in your application package. Having said that, a journal’s ranking should refer not just to how many views and clicks it gets online, or the popularity it has amongst friends and colleagues, but also how reputable that source is in comparison to other journals. Thus figuring out the ranking of the journal you are contributing to requires a little bit of research and methodology.
First off, there are many journals and magazines in specific fields, so it is important to break up the respective journal and only compare it to others that are in the same field of study or discipline. Otherwise you are comparing apples to oranges.
The first method involves doing a quick Google Search of journals in the same field as yours. Try searching something like “the best political journals of 2020” if you are a political contributor. If you are able to find a list that is highly reputable, such as one that has been put out by a well known research institute, you know you are off to a good start.
Try doing this a few times. See where your journal ends up after looking at multiple sources. If there is consistency that your journal is “Number 4” on the list, across a variety of sources, then you know that overall your journal is not the best in its category, but is at least still showing up instead of being completely unranked or ignored by other outlets.
Limitations: However, the obvious limitation in this method is that there is no way to quantifiably understand how your journal is ending up where it is ending up. You are going off of the bias of other authors who might feel a certain way toward your journal in national rankings, but your not really seeing any statistical evidence as to why your journal has obtained a certain ranking. So while this is a good way to first start researching your journals ranking, it should not be an end result.
Method 2: Using a Well Established Database
For this method, we will refer to the Scimago Journal and Country Rank database. The link is available here: https://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php. This method will work for scientific journal contributors. In other words, if you contribute to a magazine like “The Atlantic”, this method will not work for you as this is an American magazine and not a scientific journal.
Step 1: Scroll to Journal Rankings at the top.
Step 2: Filter your search by subject area, subject category, regions/countries, and the associated year you are interested in. In general, it is best to leave the Year marker at the most recent/current year so your data is relevant.
The database gives users a lot of valuable information, such as the SJR Overall Journal Rank, the H-Index, the total documents it publishes in one fiscal year, the total references per year, and also the number of references by country (which is important in understanding the relative weight of a journal in terms of a national standard).
The H-Index is also a useful measurement, featured on Impactio Labs as well (link here). This is an author specific metric that measures both the productivity and citation impact of the publications of a scientist or scholar.
Limitations: Not every NIW applicant will be able to use the SJR Database if they aren’t working in the life sciences, and/or haven’t contributed to peer-review journals.
While the above method is incredibly useful for professionals who have been working for years in the life sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Neuroscience, etc), not all professionals applying for a NIW will be working in these fields, as mentioned. Some academics will be contributing to small publications that are unranked, and lesser known.
If this is the case, it is a good idea not to worry about where your journal/publication stacks up in comparison to the rest, and trying to quantify could simply make your application less competitive. Instead, focus on the content of what you wrote as an applicant, and how it contributes to the field of interest and proposed endeavor.