The FAQ section is intended to clarify the functioning of the VABB-SHW, as officially regulated by the BOF regulation of the Flemish Government dated 12 December 2012 (2019 amendments). No rights can be derived from the information contained herein with regard to the functioning or content of the VABB-SHW.

What brought about the formation of the VABB-SHW?

To a considerable extent, the means that are appointed in the framework of the BOF-regulation, are based on the scientific output of the universities. The parameters used to quantify this output focus for the most part on publications and citations from the databases of Web of Science. However, Web of Science mostly covers the output from the Natural and Biomedical sciences. The publication patterns in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) differ remarkably from those considered to be the norm within the Natural and Biomedical Sciences. Because of this, the scientific output of researchers within the SSH only slightly affected the interuniversity distribution of the BOF-means.

To rectify this situation, the decision was made around 2008 to install the Flemish Academic Bibliographic Database for the Social Sciences and Humanities (VABB-SHW). This database enables taking into account a broader range of peer-reviewed journals, book publications, and proceedings. Because of this, the scientific output in the Social Sciences and Humanities is acknowledged more and measurably valorized.

More detailed information can be found in the following article:

Engels, T.C.E., Ossenblok, T., & Spruyt, E.H.J. (2012). Changing publication patterns in the Social Sciences and Humanities, Scientometrics, 93(2),373-390.

What is the Authoritative Panel??

For the scientific supervision of the VABB-SHW the Flemish government has installed the Authoritative Panel (‘Gezaghebbende Panel’ or GP), composed of eighteen researchers associated with the Flemish universities. The appointed researchers of high international standing are all active in the Social Sciences and Humanities.

The members of the GP are appointed by the Flemish government for renewable periods of four years, after nomination by the respective University Board. The composition of the GP guarantees that all the different scientific disciplines from the Social Sciences and Humanities are represented.

When making its assessments, the GP is aided by disciplinary subpanels, which offer their advice in function of the minimum criteria stipulated in the BOF-regulation.

How does a publication get incorporated in the VABB-SHW?

A publication can be added to the VABB-SHW when its full bibliographic reference is timely, i.e. each year before the deadline as set by the BOF-regulation (1 May), delivered by the university to the Centre for Research and Development Monitoring (ECOOM). Each institution registers the publications of its researchers in an academic bibliography. Therefore, a publication can only be considered for entry within the VABB-SHW if it is registered in the bibliographic database of the university with which the author is associated.

The GP cannot add publications on its own initiative and always starts from the delivered data. The completeness of the VABB-SHW is therefore in part the responsibility of the universities and their researchers: if they do not send in any or only partial bibliographic information on a publication, it cannot be incorporated in the VABB-SHW.

The GP checks whether journals, book titles, publishers and proceedings comply with the minimum criteria formulated in the BOF regulation (in Dutch):

  • they are publically available.
  • they are unambiguously identifiable through an ISSN or ISBN.
  • they offer a contribution to the development of new insights or the application thereof.
  • they are judged before publication in a demonstrable process of peer review performed by researchers considered to be experts in their field. Peer review must be carried out by an editorial board, a fixed reading committee, external referees, or a combination of these. At least some input must be external to the research group and independent of the author(s). peer review cannot be organised by the authors themselves.
  • they consist of at least four pages.

Only publications that comply the criteria are added to the VABB-SHW.

When making its assessments, the GP is aided by disciplinary subpanels, which offer their advice based on these criteria. This assessment does not evaluate the intrinsic quality of the publications as such. During the selection process the GP strives to obtain an intra- and interdisciplinary consensus.

How does a journal get incorporated in the list of journals assessed by the Authoritative Panel, respectively the list of journals accepted by the GP?

The Authoritative Panel evaluates a journal in the year following the calendar year when a researcher affiliated to a Flemish university has first published in it (on the condition that the publication has been submitted to ECOOM completely and in time). The journal will be added to the list of evaluated&nbps;— and possibly also to the list of approved — journals that will be published in the subsequent year.

We illustrate this with an example. A publication from 2015 in a journal that has not yet been considered will cause the journal to be evaluated in 2016. The journal will be added to the list of evaluated journals that appears in 2017.

How does a book (chapter) get added to the VABB-SHW?

Also see: ‘How does a publication get incorporated in the VABB-SHW?

There are four ways in which a book or book chapter can be added to the VABB-SHW:

  1. The book's publisher is included in the VABB-SHW publisher list. All book publications of these publishers are added to the VABB-SHW. This list includes scientific publishers for which there’s substantiated proof that they carry out peer review for all books.
  2. The book has GPRC label (Guaranteed Peer Reviewed Content) that is validated by the GP. Flemish publishers associated with the GEWU (Group of Educational & Scentific Publishers) can assign the GPRC label to peer-reviewed books.
  3. The GP has concluded that the individual book has undergone peer review. This concerns books that are not published with one of the publishers referred to under 1 or 2. From the fifth version of the VABB-SHW onwards, individual books are only evaluated in the appeals procedure. These books are included if proof of a compliant peer review process is submitted.
  4. The book has appeared in a book series of which the GP has concluded that it applies peer review and that it has an academic editorial board and/or series editor. Further information about this can be found under ‘How does the GP assess book series?’.

How does a publisher get added to the list of publishers approved by the GP?

Also see: ‘How does a publication get incorporated in the VABB-SHW?

All book publications of publishers on the publisher list are included in the VABB-SHW. This list consists of the intersection of publishers at which Flemish researchers from the SSH have published and the Norwegian List of Publishers Level 2. From the second version of the VABB-SHW onwards, the list of publishers was progressively expanded with over 50 scientific publishers for which there’s substantiated proof that they perform peer review. Publishers are only added to this list if it can be shown in the appeals procedure that they sytematically apply peer review.

Next to that, separate lists are compiled of publishers with GPRC labels, with individual book publications, and of all publishers of which at least one book publication has been added to the VABB-SHW.

How do proceedings get incorporated in the VABB-SHW?

Also see: ‘How does a publication get incorporated in the VABB-SHW?

In order to be added to the VABB-SHW, a proceedings paper must:

For proceedings which are submitted via the appeal procedure, the last condition may be waived. This might occur when qualitative proceedings are published with an ISBN and which undoubtedly apply peer review.

How does the GP assess book series?

Also see: ‘How does a book (chapter) get added to the VABB-SHW?’.

Book publications are also taken into consideration for incorporation in the VABB-SHW if they appeared in a book series in 2010 and onwards of which the GP has determined that it applies peer review and that it has an academic editorial board and/or series editor. Book titles within these series are automatically incorporated in the VABB-SHW, provided that they comply with all other criteria for inclusion.

Series by publishers on the VABB-SHW publishers list are not assessed, given that each book by this publisher is automatically accepted (as well as all of their series).

The GP assessed series which are published by members of the Group fo Educational & Scientific Publishers or GEWU (formerly Flemish Publishers Association or VUV) for the first time in 2015. These GEWU series are accepted when they comply with the aforementioned criteria for series and when they contain a sufficient amount (to be validated by the GP) of GPRC-titles. The books in the accepted GEWU series are incorporated in the VABB-SHW from the publication year 2014 onwards (version VI of the VABB-SHW).

A top journal is not in the list of journals accepted by the GP, why is this the case?

There are three options:

  • No researchers associated with a Flemish university have published in the journal during the preceding period of 10 years (t-11 up to t-2).
  • The articles published in the journal were not or insufficiently registered in the academic bibliography of the Flemish university with which the author is affiliated or the relevant references were not delivered to ECOOM by the university.
  • The Authoritative Panel could not find any evidence of peer review. Consequently, the journal was only added to the list of assessed journals.

The journals in which publications were published that were accepted for the previous versions of the VABB-SHW, but now fall outside the intended timeframe (and as such are no longer taken into account for the most recent version of the VABB-SHW) no longer occur on the list of the current edition of the VABB-SHW but are still on the cumulative list, which goes back to the year 2000. The publications can also be looked up and consulted via the web access to the VABB-SHW database.

A certain journal/publisher in/with which I have published is now deleted from the list of accepted journals/publishers, how is this possible?

The lists of the VABB-SHW are retrospective in character: they only consist of journals and publishers in/at which was published in a preceding period of 10 years (i.e., t-11 up to t-2).The ninth version is based on the time window 2008-2017. Journals and publishers in/with which Flemish researchers have published in 2007 (t-12) or earlier, but not during the following timeframe, are no longer to be found in the list of journals/publishers on the basis of which the ninth version of the VABB-SHW was composed.

Journals and publishers in/with which publications appeared that were accepted for earlier versions of the VABB-SHW but that are outside the current time window and therefore do not count towards the current version of the VABB-SHW no longer appear in the list of this VABB-SHW edition. They can however still be found in the cumulative lists, which go back to 2000.

Individual publications that were accepted for preceding versions of the VABB-SHW, but now fall outside the current time window and as such no longer count for the most recent version of the VABB-SHW, can still be looked up and consulted via the web access to the VABB-SHW database.

If your missing publication has been published within the current time window (t-11 up to t-2), and it was correctly registered in your academic bibliography, you can contact the VABB-SHW contact person within your institution. The universities can report substantive errors to ECOOM.

How can I object to a decision of the Authoritative Panel?

The appeal procedure is described in the Code of Order and in the guidelines for the appeals procedure (in Dutch).

A university that finds fault with a decision of the GP can issue an appeal for rectification. The deadline for the submission of appeals for rectification has been set four months after the publication of the most recent version of the VABB-SHW.

The appeals for rectification can only bear on the additions that were made in the most recent version of the VABB-SHW in contrast to the previous version. In other words, this is only in reference to the publications from t-2 en t-3 that were added by the universities during the last delivery.

What is the Norwegian List of Publishers?

The Norwegian List of Publishers is a list employed by the Norwegian government for distributing research means. The list was divided into two levels. The Level 2-list is composed of international scientific publishers and guarantees the highest quality. The complete list can be consulted in the Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers.

The list of publishers from the first version of the VABB-SHW was limited to publishers from the Norwegian Level 2-list. From the second version of the VABB-SHW onwards, the list of publishers was progressively expanded with over 50 scientific publishers for which there’s substantiated proof that they perform peer review.

What is the GPRC label?

GPRC stands for ‘Guaranteed Peer Reviewed Content’. It is a quality label used by the Flemish Publishers Association (VUV) to indicate that a publication granted such a label, has been subjected to peer review that complies with the international scientific standards. The Authoritative Panel performs an independent study of the review reports of the book titles that receive the label. based on the results of this study, the Panel decides whether to add these books to the VABB-SHW.

Given the cycle for submission of the VABB-SHW, this check takes place after the label was granted by the VUV. It is therefore a possibility that some books have received the label, but have not been incorporated in the VABB-SHW by the GP.

More information on GPRC and an overview of GPRC-labeled books

Is it better to look up data in the lists or in the database?

Individual publications can be looked up in the VABB-SHW database. This database consists of all the publications since 2000 that were added to the VABB-SHW.

To ascertain if a journal, a book series or (specific or all book titles from) a publisher was/were added and count(s) for the current version of the VABB-SHW, one can consult the lists of journals, series and publishers accepted by the GP.

I can no longer find a publication via the web access to the database, how is this possible?

The web access to the VABB-SHW offers the possibility to search in three different ways:

  • ‘Quick search’ is the fastest and simplest. This allows searching for a title word or author name, but not e.g. the ISSN or journal title.
  • With ‘Simple search’ you can search specifically in one field (e.g., title, ISBN, or discipline).
  • To combine information from different fields, you can use the function ‘Advanced search’

If none of the above mthods yield the desired result, it is possible that the publication is not included in the VABB-SHW, for instance because it has not (yet) been submitted for inclusion in the VABB-SHW, it does not comply with all criteria, or it falls outside of the time window.

Why does the list of journals accepted by the GP also mention journals that are indexed in the Web of Science (WoS)?

The journals can be divided into three groups:

  1. Journals that are not indexed in WoS
  2. Journals that are partly indexed in WoS for the period covered by the respective version of the VABB-SHW
  3. Journals that are fully indexed in WoS for the period covered by the respective version of the VABB-SHW

The articles that are four pages or longer and were published in journals that are not indexed in WoS, are added to the VABB-SHW, given that the GP can indisputably ascertain that peer review was performed. Articles that are indexed in WoS can also be found in the VABB-SHW database. In this way the researcher can get an image of all their quantifiable publications in the BOF-key.

How are journals in the Emerging Sources Citation Index treated?

In 2015 a new index was added to the Web of Science (WoS), namely the Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI). This index contains mainly local and newer journals. ESCI is not listed as WoS database in the BOF regulation and, hence, journals indexed therein are not considered for the WoS parameter in the BOF-key.

The GP has decided to automatically accept ESCI journals for inclusion in the VABB-SHW starting from version VII. For older publications (published before 2015), the original decision is maintained. For publications from 2015 onwards (version VII of the VABB-SHW), the GP has decided that a journal indexed in ESCI is included in the VABB-SHW journal list, even if the GP has previously classified it as non-peer-reviewed. Articles in these journals published in 2015 or later are included.

Every year, ECOOM-Antwerp consults the ESCI list on 1 July and uses this for the next version of the VABB-SHW.

What happens to publications that comply with the criteria set out in the BOF-regulation or listed by the GP, but which do not seem to belong to the Social Sciences and Humanities?

The BOF-regulation states that only those publications are taken into account for the VABB-SHW that can be attributed to the Social Sciences and Humanities and that are authored by researchers associated with a Flemish university. The Social Sciences and Humanities are in this case defined according to the broad WoS definition (incl. environmental sciences, sport sciences and nursing). If a researcher belongs to a Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, his or her research will be seen as being part of the Social Sciences and Humanities. Because of the nature of the research (f.e. with a strong mathematical background) and in consequence of interdisciplinary cooperation and publications, it may seem like some of these publications do not belong to the Social Sciences and Humanities, even though the content is (in part) the result of research in the Social Sciences and Humanities.

The list of journals shows a different title for my journal. How is this possible?

The title in the list of journals is the one under which they are added to the database of the ISSN International Centre, which determines a standardized title for each journal. It is possible that this standardized title is not (entirely) the same as the commonly used title, among other things due to the addition of place name or type (e.g., ‘online’, ‘print’) between brackets. For bilingual journals, the VABB lists usually mention the double title. Journals that have changed names or have other questions relating to the title with which they are mentioned in the VABB lists are asked to pass this information on to the ISSN International Centre directly.

Are Open Access journals eligible for incorporation in the VABB-SHW?

Yes, if they comply with the criteria of the BOF regulation. The journal list of VABB-SHW contains a substantial number of peer-reviewed open access journals.

Only so-called ‘predatory’ open access journals are actively kept out. The results are described in a yearly report (report for VABB-SHW IX). Predatory Open Access journals receive a negative assessment by the GP and the publications that have appeared in them are not eligible for inclusion in the VABB-SHW, unless proof of peer review can be submitted through the appeals procedure or unless the journal is present in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and demonstrably applies peer review. Since 2014, DOAJ maintains a list of quality open access journals that apply peer review. If a journal is included in DOAJ, it is not considered to be predatory.

What weight factor is used for the different publication types in VABB-SHW?

In order to calculate each university’s share of publications in VABB-SHW, the following weights are used:

  • Journal articles are counted with weight 1;
  • Books as author are counted with weight 4;
  • Books as editor are counted with weight 1;
  • Chapters or articles in books are counted with weight 1;
  • Proceedings papers are counted with weight 0.5.

In any case, only those publications that comply with the criteria are counted.

Which disciplines are identified in the VABB-SHW?

A total of 16 disciplines are identified in the VABB-SHW. These are:

  • Archeology
  • Communication studies
  • Criminology
  • Economics and business
  • History
  • Theology
  • Art history and architecture
  • Litterature
  • Education sciences
  • Political sciences
  • Psychology
  • Law
  • Social health sciences
  • Sociology
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy

In addition, two general categories are:

  • Humanities (general)
  • Social sciences (general)

How are publications assigned to VABB-SHW disciplines?

In the VABB-SHW we assign publications to disciplines on the basis of the affiliation(s) of the author(s). The research units to which authors belong, are assigned to one of 16 VABB-SHW disciplines or one of both general categories, allowing to assign each publication to at least one discipline or general category.

Are the VABB-SHW data available as open data?

Yes. Since 2018, ECOOM makes the data underlying the VABB-SHW available in an open data set (CC-BY 4.0). The most recent data set concerns VABB-SHW VIII and is available on Zenodo.