Re: UK "RAE" Evaluations

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000 18:31:54 +0000

On Tue, 21 Nov 2000, "Rzepa, Henry" < wrote:

> The UK runs "Research assessment exercises" in subject disciplines
> periodically. Ours (Chemistry) is coming up shortly.
> I enquired what the status of my "e-only" work might be. The answer,
> approximately, was that if it does not carry a page number, its not a
> journal.
> Publication in "journals" is of course one way in which my particular
> discipline judges quality and international significance.
> As the editor of four "e-print" conferences in chemistry, archived as
> four CDROMs "without page numbers", I infer (to be confirmed) that
> none of this counts towards the RAE, or at least not at the same level
> as "page numbers".
> As it happens, I have hedged my bets, and published, hopefully
> adequately, in journals that DO carry page numbers. But if ones tenure,
> or future, were to depend on "page numbers", it could be a worrying
> period for some.
> If push came to shove, and someone were "shoved" because their "page
> numbers" were inadequate, I wonder if that could be tested legally, and
> whether the "e-print" would prevail?

I seriously doubt that page-numbers are or ever were a stumbling block
with RAE. Here is the pertinent statement from the last RAE:

    46. Material embodying research outcomes published by electronic
    means may be cited. Refereed journal articles published through
    electronic means will be treated on the same basis as those
    appearing in printed journals.

This does not sound like any sort of double-standard to me.

On the other hand, please bear and mind (and keep separate) the
following further issues:

(1) For the RAE or any other evaluation, not all refereed journals are
on a par: There are journals of higher quality and lower quality; this
is sometimes (but not always) correlated with the journal's ISI "impact
factor," and sometimes also with its age (older, established journals
may tend to be of higher quality and impact than newer start-ups, or
may have established their eventual quality and prestige more fully).

(2) These quality differences among journals can and and should be taken
into account if such assessment exercises are to be conducted at all.
It is then likely that newer start-ups will not be weighted as heavily
as older established journals; it is also likely that the online-only
journals will be among the newer start-ups, rather than the older,
established journals, which will all be paper-based (although most will
now also have an on-line version too). There are, however, exceptions
to the rule that newer (hence on-line-only) start-up journals will have
lower quality and impact, viz., The Journal of High Energy Physics

    "JHEP has proved to be the right answer to the need for a new path
    for scientific communication. Indeed, JHEP is an efficient and
    cheap alternative to conventional publishing that nevertheless
    maintains essential publishing features: quality control, easy
    retrieval, and archival responsibility for the future.

    "In order to illustrate the success of the experiment, launched in
    July 1997, let the figures do the talking. JHEP is by now a leading
    journal in the field. The number of consultations is outstanding
    and the impact factor as high as the best in the field."

(3) It goes without saying that a refereed journal is a refereed
journal, regardless of the medium, on-line or on-paper. In some fields,
refereed conference proceedings are just about on a par with refereed
journals (but again, they need time to establish their quality levels
and impacts). What Dr. Rzepa neglects to indicate, however, is whether
the "'e-print' conferences in chemistry" of which he writes are (i)
refereed, and if so, (ii) whether they have yet established their
refereeing quality standards (and if so, (iii) where they stand in the
quality hierarchy).

None of this is intended as advocacy of bean-counting. But if we are
going to count beans, there are factors that will invariably be taken
into account that prevent all publications from being treated on a par.

The presence of page-numbers, however, will not be one of them.

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

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Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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