Bibliometrics: building an equitable global scientific system

Bibliometrics: building an equitable global scientific system

Open Science topics constantly appear at European level (and beyond), in conferences, policy documents, declarations of principles, scientific articles and political agendas related to scientific research.

A characteristic of the Italian debate on open science issues is that it is partial (it is only related to open access or worse, to transformative contracts that have nothing to do with open science), and often ill-informed or out of context (as evidenced by an article recently published as an opinion in the same blog). Therefore, it seems important for us to follow the stages of development of open science discourse, through an “observatory” that draws the attention of disciplinary communities to the most important news, events, projects, documents and decisions on the global and national levels.

Today’s news relates to an article by David Mills that appeared in University World News.

The title is misleading: Bibliometrics: building an equitable global scientific system . Indeed, one might expect an article devoted to bibliometrics and its distorting effects, but in reality the main topic isScientific publishing and the emphasis, starting from the second half of the last century, on the oligopolistic market. The article starts from the story of Robert Maxwell, founder of Pergamon Press. He founded his empire in the appropriate context of the scientific research that Vannevar Bush created in the post-war period with his famous report The science of infinite boundaries.

Vannevar was a skilled administrator, but not an entrepreneur. Robert Maxwell was one of the first entrepreneurs to realize how profitable scientific publishing can be. For more than 30 years, he persuaded numerous editors and associations to sign contracts, rapidly increasing Pergamon’s magazine publishing program from six in 1951 to more than 700 at the company’s peak in the 1980s.

In the same period and in the same climate of revival and confidence in scientific research, Eugene Garfield begins work

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Amidst the rapid growth of search streams, he was determined to find ways to automate and speed up the search for information […] His first step was to build a database of all the references in a selection of 600 scientific journals. Launched in 1963, the number of indexed journals has doubled in three years. As it grew, it began to identify “reputable” academic knowledge.

As is known, four publishers have monopolized the global market for scientific publications for years, each with more than 2,000 journals (Springer, Elsevier, Wiley, Taylor, and Francis). In fifth place we find Sage, which publishes 900 journals. This group of five publishers constitutes an oligopoly Which has tremendous influence and power in determining research topics and researchers’ professions.

New open access initiatives have been added to these giants recently such as the MDPI which publishes hundreds of thousands of articles each year.

The market created in the hands of the oligopolists that is A very rich market with huge barriers to entry Represented by the prestige of editorial slogans.

It’s no coincidence, Mills says, that while there was the Lancet brand, there are now 22 journals branded The Lancet, and while there was Nature, today there are more than 30 journals with Nature in the title.

Universities focus more than ever on international reputation and rankings as they compete for students, fund sponsorships, and reputation. Many of their staff are motivated to publish by financial incentives, promotion pressures, and a change in academic practice.

Conquest era publish or destroy. If you want to stay in the academy, the magazines of the five publishing giants are your goal.

In this context, it is not surprising that some academics take shortcuts to survive. In China, as in other emerging economies, doctors and other professionals need to have academic publications in “top” journals in order to be promoted. If they have no research or writing experience, the chances of getting their work on SCI journals are slim. The only option may be to buy the copyright, and so there is a growing demand for brokers and agents who can help with this process. This has led to a series of notable mass declines

So that too The age of scientific fraud, Backtracking and reaction processes, focus on search integrity. Curiously, instead of focusing on the shortcomings of a scientific publishing system that adheres to the principles of general direction and that of performance-based research that is evaluated and rewarded on the basis of quantitative indicators, there is a preference to focus on identifying incorrect behavior. In short, the symptoms are treated by pretending not to know the cause.

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More broadly, the rhetoric of “fraudulent” science also serves to reaffirm the limits of real science, upholding the legitimacy and value of its primary currency: citation data.

They are in this picture completely unrepresented regions of the world In databases used to restrict “good science” and distinguish it from fraudulent science. The article gives the example of Africa and the very low presence of African-produced journals in bibliometric databases, but the situation is similar for most of the non-English speaking world.

The author wonders if the situation is in the descriptionopen science He is question or answer.

After the fundamental failure of the principles Berlin Declaration (Signed to Italy by almost all institutions And it remained a dead letter in our country for years) The Alliance S seemed to be able to give a new impetus to the opening of the flag by requiring decades time that they should have helped publishers transform themselves (here also Italy joined in enthusiastically, as exemplified by a The last poster made by CRUI Eng. EOSC). Nothing more wrong (like Coalition S recently endorsed) These contracts have led to additional profit growth for publishers, in a system (science communication system) that continues to show many elements of weakness.

Far from helping decolonize the publishing ecosystem, this paradigm of open science [i contratti trasformativi] Establishes the dominance of commercial publishers. At the same time, it marginalizes researchers working in resource-deprived research systems and seems to integrate acceleration and productivity as survival strategies for those in the academic setting.

The solution to the shortcomings and bugs of the commercial publishing system seems to be offered by The public infrastructure is managed by the disciplinary communitiesas they recommend UNESCO (2021) and European Council.

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However, redirecting resources to enterprise-run infrastructure requires a Strong political will And a great ability to communicate the value of choices of this kind to the scientific community, starting with modifying evaluation systems based on bibliometric measurements.

This project has already been very successful in some parts of the world, think platform SciELO in Latin America. Projects like Dimas And the opera underway in Europe.

Sixty years after Garfield published the first citation index and 70 years after the founding of Pergamon Press, scholarly publications certainly represent a very rich market that draws significant funds from research. Publishers of scholarly publications and bibliometric databases (at least in one concurrent instance) have established this at this point. Citation economy. Metrics only reinforce the dominance of scientific oligopolies, the same oligopolies that are essential to the survival of researchers in a system increasingly determined by numbers (Outrageous numbers Arnold called them).

Is there a way out of this recursive growth loop? Open access advocates, funders, and researchers offer Vision A A fairer global search system built around community-owned publishing infrastructures and standards. The first step in this journey is to wean scientists and universities off the addictive measures of scholarly credibility that commercially owned citation indexes sell.

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