I took part in a recent Scopus training webinar about a month ago where it was casually mentioned that Scopus doesn’t index all of Elsevier’s journals. This sparked my interest: Why wouldn’t Scopus, who is owned by Elsevier and tightly tied in with other Elsevier products, index all of Elsevier’s journals? The necessary metadata is all right there. So why not?
Also, asking the question why not all Elsevier journals are in Scopus is kind of a ‘dammed if you dammed if you don’t’ trick question. A bit like asking “Does your mom know you’re an idiot?”. Elsevier prides itself on only indexing high quality publications in Scopus, and if doesn’t index all of the journals it publishes, isn’t that admitting that not all of the journals Elsevier publishes are not high quality? …So, it is a good question to ask.And ask it I did. A couple times actually. I asked it first during the webinar and it was suggested that perhaps it was because not all the journals Elsevier publishes are on topics that are relevant to Scopus. Which maybe was true when Scopus was stylizing itself as more of a science database, but with its big push humanities lately… this reasoning doesn’t really hold up.
In a later more detailed answer they explained that it was mostly because of two reasons: 1st, some of their journals don’t submit for indexing in Scopus. The duty for submitting is on the editors, but why, if you are an Elsevier publication and have the contacts and the infrastructure, would you not submit to be in one of the biggest A and I databases? Are you trying not to make your journal discoverable?
In their second reason, they finally admitted what I was trying to get them to say. That there are number of journals that do not pass the evaluation. So there we go. Elsevier admits the obviously true (with that many journals there has to be some bad eggs) truth that not all the journals they publish are awesome.
They didn’t provide me with a list of non-indexed Elsevier journals in Scopus, so I ran the numbers myself. I got a bit trigger happy on twitter initially and wrongly tweeted that the number was about 30% of their journal publications (Sorry if you saw that). The actual number is a bit harder to determine because Scopus only updates its total journal list 3 times a year, while continuously adding content over that year. I worked from the most recent Scopus title list I could find, which was last updated November 2015, so my stuff is already out of date. Also another thing to be aware of is how often journals change hands between publishers and that newer journals take awhile to be indexed in Scopus.
Anyways. I found that out of the 2747 active journals that Elsevier publishes, 448 journals are not indexed in Scopus. About 15%. You can find the list of these non-indexed journals here. Note that I only looked at active journals and not no-longer-published journals …because these could have changed into newer journals or also moved publishers annnd are just generally confusing.
Is 15% a surprising number of journals not to index in Scopus? Elsevier, as a publisher of journals and also the owner of Scopus, does create some worries of overrepresentation of its own journals in comparison to other publishers. This 15% seems like the perfect percentage for a “well we don’t index all of our own content so we can’t be that biased” defense to any accusations of bias. It’s not to low so that customers can just laugh it off, nor is so high that customers wonder why they chose Scopus as a tool if they can’t even index their own content. Perhaps it is an engineered amount of journals.