Re: UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) review

From: <informania_at_SUPANET.COM>
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2002 09:43:42 +0100


Thanks for the clarification of your definitions and position on impact
measurements (in particular, for "The ISI journal-impact factor's vicious
circularity is part of the toll-access circle, which is precisely what
open-access and self-archiving are designed to free us from!"). I am glad to
see that you endorse a far broader scientometric system than is offered by
ISI impact factors. Much of our discussion now seems to run along parallel

This is to comment on a couple of your other points:

> Anything-metric simply means "measured." I
> assume that if we want research to have an impact, we'd also like to be
> able to measure that impact. Peer reviewers are the first line of defense,
> using direct human judgment and expertise as to the quality and hence
> the potential impact of research. But I assume we don't want
> to make full peer-review our only impact metric, and to just keep on
> repeating it (e.g., by the RAE assessors). (It takes long enough to get
> a paper refereed once!) So what are the other alternatives? And are any
> of them "non-scientometric"? If they are objective, quantified measures,
> I can't see that there is any other choice!

Scientometrics is the measurement of science ("quantitative aspects of the
science of science"). I was objecting to the implication that the
scientometrics of impact factors was a scientific discipline in the
Popperian falsifiable sense, when there is much that is subjective buried in
the ISI impact factor (as I attempted to illustrate in suggesting that there
are all kinds of subjective reasons why researchers chose to cite one
journal rather than another). What you are measuring with some objectivity
is the behaviour of citers rather than the quality of the literature. Hence
my later use of the word "quasi-scientometric" in this regard.

> As to the reason why a researcher might cite a paper in the British
> Journal rather than the Bhutan Medical Journal: There are many reasons
> (and lets admit that sometimes some of them really do have to do with
> quality differences, if only because the Bhutan researchers, far more
> deprived of research-access than British ones, are unable to do more
> fully-informed research as a consequence).

In common with many developing country medical journals, the (fictional)
Bhutan Medical Journal would focus on public health systems and health
services research, rather than basic medical research (which would be
difficult, as you say) and as such would be rather more worthy of citation
in this domain than any northern journal. I have a catalogue of quotations
illustrating the fact that there is plenty of material in developing country
journals which is of unique value and importance, but which is being
neglected through a lack of access. There are a number of projects aiming to
open up access to this literature online (including the ExtraMED project I
am developing with BioMed Central, as well as SciELO, Bioline, African
Journals Online...).

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 Wed Nov 27 2002 - 08:43:42 GMT

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