Re: UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) review

From: <informania_at_SUPANET.COM>
Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002 08:39:22 +0100

This is being offered despite Stevan's being "braced for the predictable
next round of attacks on scientometric impact analysis: 'Citation impact is
crude, misleading, circular, biassed: we must assess research a better
way!'". It remains curious why he acquiesces passively to a poor, biassed
system based on impact analysis rather than searching for "alternative,
nonscientometric ways of assessing and ranking large bodies of research
output" - and indeed seeks to dissuade those who might be doing that.

Those of us working with developing country journals are well aware of the
inherent biases and vicious circles operating in the world of impact
factors. The circularity Stevan refers to is "You cannot cite what you
haven't read, you tend not to read what is not stocked in your library (or
readily avaialble online), and your library tends not to stock what isn't
cited". This certainly applies to developing country journals, and there is
literature to support this (which - paradoxically - I don't have to hand to
cite), but it also applies everywhere to new journals, local journals and
many open access products.

Surely those supporting open access should be against impact-factor driven
ranking systems and be searching actively for less-biassed replacements?
These need not be "nonscientometric", incidentally - no need for the
suggestion of witchcraft. [Impact factors themselves are more than a tad
sociometric - measurements of the behavioural patterns of researchers -
rather than entirely objective. Is the reason someone cited the British
Medical Journal rather than the Bhutan Medical Journal (assuming she had
access to both) because the first BMJ was better, or more prestigious, than
the second BMJ?]

In fact, Stevan mentions "other new online scientometric measures such as
online usage ["hits"], time-series analyses, co-citation analyses and
full-text-based semantic co-analyses, all placed in a weighted multiple
regression equation instead of just a univariate correlation". Indeed,
impact factors are very crude quasi-scientometric and subjective measures
compared even with such simple information (easy to obtain for online media)
as counts of usage - for example, how many articles have been read but not

All these are indeed worth pursuing and, I would have thought, right on the
agenda of the OA movement.


Chris Zielinski
Director, Information Waystations and Staging Posts Network
Currently External Relations Officer, HTP/WHO
Avenue Appia, CH-1211, Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: 004122-7914435 Mobile: 0044797-10-45354
e-mail: and
web site:
Received on Tue Nov 26 2002 - 07:39:22 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:43 GMT