Science policy
The pressures to guide science
October 17, 2016
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“Saving Science,” the (still relatively) new article from Daniel Sarewitz published in The New Atlantis, has been getting a lot of attention in the science and science policy communities, and for good reason: the point that he’s making is one that’s very important right now in a context of government budgetary constraints and heightened scrutiny of research. He argues that science advances most when it is directed toward specific problems, especially those of technological innovation, and ties itself in knots when left to be lead by the curiosity of researchers. Consequently, research should be directed to solve concrete, mostly technological problems, and it should be held accountable on this basis.  Of course, he’s not the only author to be discussing the shortcomings of present evaluation and reward systems; others have also reported on the perverse effects within the scientific community that can result from diminishing research funding and hyper-competition. So what’s all this fuss about, anyway? (more…)

Bibliometrics Science policy Web of Science
Establishing the prevalence of the gender dimension in research
September 16, 2016
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About 7% of social science research and about 4% of medicine and humanities integrate a gender dimension. In agricultural and natural sciences as well as engineering and technology there is a vanishingly small amount of research involving gender. Sweden’s research has the strongest commitment to researching gender issues, with almost 9% of social sciences and 7.6% of humanities addressing gender issues and even showing activity in the natural sciences. Croatia and Finland are close followers, with a similar broad profile.

These insights are reported in She Figures 2015, released this year by the European Commission. The data were compiled by Science-Metrix. Intriguing as these results are, my first question was: how did they do that? Papers aren’t tagged with a meta-data field signaling the presence of gender concerns. No single keyword would capture it. Topic modeling the corpus might produce some clusters with words related to gender, but nothing precise enough to produce with any confidence a table by country, field and year. So I dug into the methodology to find out how the numbers were produced.
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Bibliometrics Open access
The many flavors of open access
August 5, 2016
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Life used to be so simple. If you wanted to find a scholarly paper, you looked in a journal. If somebody asked you where a paper was, you gave them the name of the journal. With the rise of open access, things have gotten more complex, and not just a little more complex. In this post I am going to explain why there are now over 150 varieties of scholarly paper. (more…)

Bibliometrics Open access Scopus
OACA – the open access citation advantage
July 22, 2016
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If you post your paper online somewhere outside a paywall, you join the majority of scholars and your paper will gain a citation advantage over papers available only through a journal. This has been demonstrated in recent research. A particular focus of research on open access publishing has been the hypothesis that open access papers will be more highly cited. In this post I will examine some studies that have attempted to confirm or quantify this citation advantage. (more…)

Science policy
Expert advice on experts giving advice
July 8, 2016
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Subject-matter experts are often called upon (or at least in a position) to provide their considered opinion on a matter of public policy. While the lab, the classroom and conference table are all terra cognita for a researcher, the halls of legislative and executive buildings are usually less familiar haunts. Accordingly, some time can be valuably spent in figuring out how science types can interact effectively with government types. (more…)

Science policy
The mucky business of evidence-based policymaking
June 27, 2016
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In his recent op-ed, James Gover argues that the US federal government doesn’t have the information it needs to respond effectively to current issues such as healthcare, education and income inequality, and is failing to foresee the issues that are coming down the pike. He also notes that even in cases where high-quality information has been made available in a timely fashion, the political sphere has failed to take action before the situation boils over into crisis. Accordingly, Gover proposes “that National Laboratories evolve to become elite, public-focused, forward-looking, think-tanks that provide research and model-based guidance to the President, Congress and the public on complex issues of high public concern.” While his recommendation seems interesting, there’s one facet of his proposed solution that I think undermines the viability of using scientific research for policy development in the way that he’s suggesting. (more…)

Higher education Science policy
Negotiations at the science–policy interface
June 13, 2016
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In the lead-up to the last Canadian federal election, a lot of attention in the science policy community was dedicated to addressing the freedom of scientists to speak: the muzzling issue. In short, without the freedom to share results, analyses and conclusions, federal government scientists had no reasonable hope of having their work put the evidence back into evidence-based policymaking. In my presentation to the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science (CSHPS) in Calgary a few weeks ago, I touched on another facet of that discussion, one that’s gotten a great deal less attention: the freedom of policy analysts to interact with those scientists (though apparently they’re getting at least some attention as well). From my experiences inside and outside the civil service, this is a topic that needs considerable attention as well. (more…)

Bibliometrics Science policy
Taxonomy, objectivity and expectation
June 6, 2016
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Interdisciplinarity is garnering a lot of interest in the science policy community right now—look no further than the legions of researchers desperate to highlight the interdisciplinary potential of their work in an attempt to latch onto the latest key that unlocks brimming coffers. A good deal of that policy interest has been channeled into attempts to develop robust bibliometric indicators to assess and track interdisciplinary work. But before we go charging off into that world, let’s take a brief look first at the philosophical underpinnings of the taxonomies of science on which interdisciplinary metrics are built. (more…)

Higher education Leiden Manifesto
Letter from two AAU faculty to AAU provosts re Academic Analytics
May 16, 2016
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Diana Hicks & Cassidy Sugimoto

In August 2013, President Obama released the “Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class,” which announced the Administration’s intention to develop a rating system for colleges, with results eventually to be linked to federal student aid. Public comments were solicited, and the Association of American Universities (AAU) was among the many who submitted comments. The AAU objected to the proposed college rating system.

In the meantime, faculty at AAU universities have noted a fondness on the part of their provosts for the rating system sold by Academic Analytics. Noting the parallels between the two issues, we hereby submit a reworking of the first AAU public comment submission to the Department of Education responding to the Administration’s call for a college rating system, a letter from Hunter R. Rawlings III, President of the Association of American Universities, to Jamie Studley, Deputy Under Secretary, Department of Education dated December 2, 2013. (Unfortunately, the Department of Education has removed the public comments from its site, so the original letter is no longer available. We can provide it upon request.) (more…)

Bibliometrics Database Scopus Web of Science
The difference a database makes
March 21, 2016
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Databases never include everything. This is one of the most important reasons to know your data source. By knowing what is excluded, you can better understand the counts produced and arrive at a correct interpretation. The switch from SCI/SSCI CD-ROM to Scopus in NSF’s Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) 2016 provides a rare opportunity to compare the analytical virtues of two databases head to head. Because we can bring in other system-level data—funding—at some level of disaggregation, we can investigate whether our representation of the science system improves. It appears that our picture of U.S. science has improved, and, in particular, computing and engineering are no longer discriminated against. Even beyond those two fields the representation of fields in publications seems better aligned with the picture obtained from funding data.  The figure reports the “prices” of the papers produced by U.S. universities across fields of science as they would appear if papers were counted in SCI/SSCI CD-Rom version and in Scopus. (And if only money expended in 2012 under the research accounts of universities were used to produce each paper. And if each author spent the same fraction of the notional total paper budget, with equal amounts of that budget coming from any coauthors in other sectors or countries.)

wos scopus paper cost

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