China's Ministry of Education and Ministry of Science and Technology issued an official notice last week on regulating the use of Science Citation Index (SCI) papers in the evaluation system of universities and academic institutions across the country, calling for a break from the longstanding SCI-supremacy in assessing researchers and institutions.
The authorities issued clear guidelines on reversing the SCI-supremacy phenomenon in a move to change the current academic assessment and evaluation systems that are over-reliant on published papers, as well as to develop a more comprehensive evaluation system in academia.
According to the guidelines, the numbers of SCI papers, citations, and highly cited papers, as well as relevant factors like the Essential Science Indicators (ESI) rankings, have become core indicators for academic assessments, evaluations, rankings and corresponding policy making, such as educational resource allocation, in recent years.
For citation, not for evaluation
Universities and academic institutes have been using SCI-paper and other relevant indexes as the dominant determinants to evaluate the research ability of students, teachers, and researchers, said Xie Gaodi, deputy director of the Center for Resource Science, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources at Chinese Academy of Sciences, noting that an overemphasis on SCI papers when evaluating researchers neglect other capabilities.
The phenomenon of SCI supremacy is widely considered one-sided, excessive, and known for its distortion of information from SCI papers among scientific research evaluation systems at universities and other academic institutions in China.
There are a lot of limitations when SCI and its related indexes serve as a direct evaluation system, as it, in essence, is a citation database for scientific literature used worldwide, said the official with the Ministry of Education in a statement released on February 23 briefing the guidelines.
It is also clarified that it is not a denial of SCI, nor a refusal to publishing papers.
The guidelines introduced several specific measures to abolish the phenomenon.
It pointed out that SCI papers should not be used as a direct basis for professional titles evaluation and occupational promotion, nor a prerequisite for personnel employment.
Higher education institutions are suggested not to set requirements on the number of published papers for departments and individuals.
Academic institutions can no longer reward individuals and departments based on SCI papers alone, and the graduation and awarding degrees of students should not be restricted by the number of SCI papers and impact factors, the document said.
'To establish matters to eliminate'
The guidelines also pointed out that a sound assessment system should be developed, in which different weight of paper publication is put on the evaluation of different types of scientific research work.
For research in basic disciplines, evaluation should focus on the originality and scientific value of the research papers, instead of the number of SCI papers.
Application research and research in technological innovation should focus on the actual contribution of the research and the utilization of the results in real life, it said.
In addition, universities and education authorities should improve peer-review in talent evaluation.
Jin Li, vice president of Shanghai's Fudan University, stressed that "to eliminate, it greatly matters to establish." He noted that it is of great significance to establish a comprehensive evaluation system with more indicators that can effectively, fairly reflect the value of academic contributions.
Yuan Lanfeng, an associate professor at the University of Science and Technology of China, believe that it is a good opportunity for the academic institutes to improve their performance evaluation systems, and with the upgraded system, researchers serving in the institutes "will be encouraged to concentrate more on long-term studies instead of short-term papers."