REFORMING CHINA’S CHEMISTRY
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Chemistry reward system as it is done in China is one that has met criticisms from the scientific community itself. The impact of chemistry journal publications has become the greatest factor in rewarding a chemist, a fact that has caused chagrin on many quarters.
As a member of the scientific community in the Philippines, I am truly appalled by such a situation. Pure science must be rewarded on the basis of the merits of the research methodology and findings, a standard that has been in place in all sciences—biological, physical, medical, social. Eyebrows can raise and tempers risen if journal impact would be the basis of rewarding a research, as this reduces scientists to showbiz persons which they are not.
Below is the intriguing report on the chemistry situation in China and the need to reform the sector.
[Philippines, 16 September 2011]
China must reform how it evaluates chemistry research
17 August 2011
China must quickly reform how it evaluates chemistry research, to encourage high-quality work — not heaps of published papers, argues Nai-Xing Wang, professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
The country's administrators tend to judge the quality of scientific research solely by journal impact factors, Wang says. Articles published in journals with a high impact factor are considered excellent. Research proposals — and the referees who evaluate them — are judged based on the impact factor of previous publications, and salaries are calculated using information on the impact factor of published work.
This is a "very crude approach" to evaluating scientific research, says Wang. One problem is that impact factors measure how frequently the average paper is cited in a particular period, so the more popular the research area the easier it is to achieve a high impact factor.
"If a high impact factor is the only goal of chemistry research, then chemistry is no longer science. It is changed to a field of fame and game," he writes.
Having this narrow view of chemistry is damaging in other ways too. It encourages chemists to choose easy research topics that can be written up quickly, or to split a project into smaller parts for publications.
These practices are not unique to China, but are particularly serious there, says Wang. And halfway through the International Year of Chemistry, it is time for the country to move forward.
One solution could be to judge researchers on the number of citations a paper receives two years after publication, "to see whether their work stands the test of time". Pushing chemists to publish in international journals is another option, but the work must be substantial, not just well presented. And pure chemistry should not be overlooked in light of applied research.
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