Academic journal article Trames

Factors Affecting Bibliometric Indicators of Scientific Quality

Academic journal article Trames

Factors Affecting Bibliometric Indicators of Scientific Quality

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The number of papers published in international peer-reviewed journals still serves as an indicator of scientific performance for countries with whom the authors of these papers are affiliated (King 2004, May 1997). For example, it was observed that China's growing share in the total number of articles published globally is now second only to the scientific world leader, the United States (Leydesdorff and Wagner 2009a, 2009b, The Royal Society 2011). A report issued by the Royal Society also noticed that Iran is the fastest growing country in terms of numbers of scientific publications in the world, growing from just 736 in 1996 to 13,238 in 2008 (The Royal Society 2011). At the same time Russia's annual growth in the number of publications has been minimal remaining approximately on the same absolute level during the last two decades (Adams and King 2010). However, the increase of the total number of publications is not an automatic guarantee of the similar increase in the quality of publications. Indeed, as it was observed by Eugene Garfield, out of about 38 million published papers indexed in the Web of Science (WoS, Thomson Reuters) approximately half were not cited at all (Garfield 2005). Probably for this reason the Essential Science Indicators (ESI, Thomson Reuters) identifies the 'essential core' of journals selecting the top 50% of journals by total citations in each of the 22 disciplines. But even if the increase of published papers in this 'essential core' is not accompanied by even more rapid increase of citations, it is a very problematic sign of progress. Understandably, policy makers and researchers themselves are increasingly more concerned about identification of indicators of high quality science (Moed 2005, Wagner and Leydesdorff 2012, van Leeuwen, Visser, Moed, Nederhof, and van Raan 2003). The average impact (citations per item) of all papers published by some country is certainly a more meaningful indicator of the scientific quality than a mere number of published papers. For example, it was shown that conventional bibliometric indicators, such as the number of citations, correlate with the number of Nobel Prize achievements in several advanced countries with similar research abilities (Rodriguez-Navarro 2011). Nevertheless, the analysis of the average impact should be supplemented by a careful inspection of the number of potential indicators such as highly cited papers or percentage of papers that are never cited (Wagner and Leydesdorff 2012, van Leeuwen et al. 2003).

It is not a well-guarded secret that high quality scientific research is mainly a privilege of rich nations. It is quite obvious that only these countries which are able to produce a sufficient economic wealth are also able to allocate a substantial amount of resources to scientific research and maintain a sufficient number of highly competent researchers. However, besides money high quality science depends on many other factors such as historical tradition, efficient educational system, healthy population, to say nothing about governmental policies that regulate research and development in a given country.

The three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, serve as a good example of how science could develop according to remarkably different paths (Allik 2008). In 1991 all these three countries, just liberated from the Soviet occupation, produced approximately 300 papers each in the journals indexed by the WoS. Twenty years later in 2011, Estonian scientists co-authored 1,863, Latvian 952, and Lithuanian 2,829 papers in journals, proceedings, and books indexed in WoS. Although the three countries had very similar political and economic histories they have remarkably different paths towards scientific distinction. In spite of identical starting positions, integration into the European Union, and joining NATO, scientific productivity of these three countries nowadays differs more than three times. …

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