It was early 1925. Europe continued to adjust to post-war economic and political realities, while the United States basked in its booming economy and relative peace. President Calvin Coolidge gave his second inaugural address, urging economic growth over increased taxes.
That March, amid this continued focus on American prosperity, Clark University President Wallace Atwood launched a new academic journal, Economic Geography. An economic geographer himself, Atwood bemoaned Americans’ geographical illiteracy, and had founded the Graduate School of Geography just four years before.
Published out of Clark, Economic Geography, with Atwood at its helm, was aimed at “those engaged in promotion of industries and trade; to all interested in geography or economics or sociology; to students of national and international affairs; and to all who wished to have a part in the intelligent utilization of the world’s resources,” according to a 1979 edition celebrating the journal’s 75th year.
“Economic Geography is the longest continuously operating journal in the field of economic geography in the world, and it has always been edited and operated out of Clark,” says Jim Murphy, the journal’s editor-in-chief and professor of geography. His two predecessors were his colleagues in the Graduate School of Geography: Yuko Aoyama, associate provost, dean of research and graduate studies, and professor of geography; and Clark President David Angel.
Now in its 94th year (volume), Economic Geography has hit a high note for the digital age, landing its best-ever ratings in a score that measures how often, on average, articles in a journal are cited. Web of Science, a scientific citation indexing service that ranks the prestige of peer-reviewed journals, released its 2017 two-year Citation Impact Factor ratings, showing that the average number of citations of articles from the Clark-based journal had risen from 5.3 to 6.4 for the years 2015-2016. This is a very high score that reflects on the quality of the journal’s output and the fact that top scholars are regularly citing its articles.
“This places us third out of 84 journals in geography and fourth out of 353 journals in economics,” Murphy says, “a fantastic development for a journal owned by a relatively small university.
“We’re pushing theoretical boundaries, and we’re getting outside of our small pond. Our work is being picked up not just by geographers, but also by a wide range of scholars and policymakers. That’s why we’ve seen such an incredible development in our citation-impact factor.”
Economic Geography publishes five issues a year, and assisting Murphy in reviewing the more than 200 articles submitted annually are editors Jane Pollard of Newcastle University; Andrés Rodriguez-Pose of the London School of Economics; and Henry Wai-chung Yeung of the National University of Singapore. Managing editor Hilary Laraba is based at Clark, and the journal’s revenue funds two doctoral-student stipends annually, one of which supports research in the field of economic geography. A 27-member editorial board, including Aoyama, provides strategic guidance for the journal and contributes articles and article reviews from their posts at universities across the world. Since 2014, the journal has partnered with the academic publisher Taylor & Francis, which provides production services, website management, and global marketing support (read the current issue).
In its first half-century, Economic Geography focused primarily on commodities, resources, manufacturing industries, and their distribution within countries and globally. The inaugural issue’s first article, by the chief of the U.S. Forestry Service, examined the geography of the country’s timber supply. Others explored the wheat trade and coal resources.
Since then, the changes in Economic Geography’s content have reflected those in the field — and the academy overall. As quantitative science took hold in the 1960s and ’70s, the journal’s articles focused on more mathematical approaches and modeling techniques, according to Murphy.
In the 1980s, the journal began examining “the global restructuring of industries, and the reorientation and relocation of production activities through outsourcing, off-shoring, clustering, and reconfigured supply chains — examining what this meant and continues to mean for economic and regional development,” he says.
Radical Marxist thought, embraced by scholars like longtime Clark geographer J. Richard (Dick) Peet — a journal editor in the 1990s — also emerged during this time, and the journal continues to publish works that are constructively critical of mainstream understandings of economic processes.
“Today we’re on the leading edge of research and scholarship in the field,” Murphy says. “Since the 2000s, there has been an incredible diversification of the economic activities geographers are studying, and contributors to the journal have revealed new and emerging geographies related to innovation, regional development, markets, labor rights, trade, finance, and investment, among others.
“Scholars also are focusing increasingly on alternative economies, social justice issues, and pressing questions related to environmental sustainability and inequality. More research is being conducted in the Global South — in Latin America, South Asia, Africa — with geographers, and the journal, expanding and deepening our understandings of the development challenges and possibilities in post-colonial economies.”
Economic Geography provides stipends for scholars in these new and emerging areas, sending five scholars from the Global South to the Global Conference on Economic Geography in Germany this past July. The journal also supports the biennial Summer Institute in Economic Geography and the Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography, held annually at the American Association of Geographers annual meeting.
“We’re very active in the global community of economic geography scholars,” Murphy says. “We contribute greatly to the conversations and debates about where the field is going, and what relevance it has to pressing global issues like inequality, climate change, human rights, innovation, and regional development.”
The most recent articles published in Economic Geography reflect this shift in focus, with subjects ranging from “Variegated National Retail Markets: Negotiating Transformation through Regulation in Malaysia and Thailand” to “The Limits to Private-sector Climate Change Action: The Geographies of Corporate Climate Governance.” So do many of the journal’s most-cited articles: “How Do Regions Diversify over Time? Industry Relatedness and the Development of New Growth Paths in Regions,” “Social Capital, Collective Action, and Adaptation to Climate Change,” and “Path Creation as a Process of Resource Alignment and Anchoring: Industry Formation for On-Site Water Recycling in Beijing.”
“All told, there’s been a real shift in the topical areas we work on, and where we work,” Murphy says, “with the journal serving a central role in shaping debates and dialogues in the field.”