CHINA. Chinese universities are to end their fixation on publication scores in leading journals, China’s government has announced. It plans to steer a new course.
The new policy, spearheaded by the country’s ministries of education and research, is set to reduce Chinese research publications in international scientific journals, predicts University World News.
In recent years, Chinese universities have been scaling the global scientific rankings, which are based partly on the impact of scientific publications.
China had been publishing a growing number of papers in top journals. The Leiden Ranking, which charts the impact of higher education institutions, currently places four Chinese universities in its top 10. This is up from zero only eight years ago.
In the international Shanghai Ranking, Chinese institutions ended slightly lower, with only four ranked among the top 100 universities and the highest coming in at number 41. How the policy will affect these rankings remains to be seen.
Under the new policy, Chinese institutions would no longer be allowed to focus on citation scores and other journal metrics as indicators of their reputation and the quality of individual researchers.
This approach seems to align with a worldwide trend of researchers increasingly questioning whether racking up publications in leading journals advances science in any meaningful way.
In the Netherlands, protest from advocacy group Science in Transition has galvanised a similar movement. Universities and research funders are now calling for a different accreditation and evaluation system for university researchers: instead of checklists, they want a greater focus on the story behind the scores. They also want more appreciation for other talents, such as teaching excellence and the ability to bring scientific discoveries to the attention of the general public.
Summarising possible consequences of the Chinese proposals, University World News anticipates the number of fraudulent papers by Chinese researchers may decline as publication becomes less essential to an academic career.
The social sciences presumably will suffer most from the change in course, given the fact that their research is concerned with topics sensitive to the dictatorial regime, which prohibits freedom of speech and jails dissidents.
HOP, Bas Belleman