A Key Element for the Healthy Globalization of Science


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Termos como “global” e “internacional” são rotineiramente utilizados simultaneamente com a descrição do atual sistema científico. No entanto, o que esses termos não incluem são noções tais como processos de exclusão e os mecanismos de dominação. O sistema mundial da ciência é essencialmente regido por meio de sua estrutura de comunicação e, desde o advento do Science Citation Index, este sistema de comunicação é um sistema de dois níveis. Um periódico “internacional” é aquele que é selecionado pela Thomson-Reuters para fazer parte da Web of Science. O periódico “local” ou “regional” é aquele que é excluído daquele conjunto de revistas. Então, a excelência, ela mesma combinada e confundida com qualidade, surge como uma forma de justificar este modus operandi.

Terms such as “global” and “international” are routinely used in conjunction with descriptions of the present scientific system. However, what these terms fail to include are notions such as exclusionary processes and domination mechanisms. The present world-system of science is essentially governed through its communication structure and, since the advent of the Science Citation Index, this communication system is a two-tier system. An “international” journal is one that is selected by Thomson-Reuters to be part of the Web of Science. A “local” or “regional” journal is one that is excluded from the former set of journals. Then, excellence, itself conflated and confused with quality, emerges as a way to justify this modus operandi.

Términos tales como “global” e “internacional” se utilizan habitualmente en combinación con las descripciones del sistema científico actual. Sin embargo, lo que estos términos no incluyen son nociones tales como los procesos de exclusión y los mecanismos de dominación. El actual sistema mundial de la ciencia se rige esencialmente a través de su estructura de comunicación y, desde la llegada del Science Citation Index, este sistema de comunicación es un sistema de dos niveles. Una revista “internacional” es la que es seleccionada por Thomson-Reuters al ser parte de la Web of Science. Una revista “local” o “regional” es la que se excluye de ese conjunto mencionado de revistas. Entonces, la excelencia, fusionada y confundida en sí misma con la calidad, surge como una forma de justificar este modus operandi.

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A Key Element for the Healthy Globalization of Science

  1. 1. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● After WWII: Garfield and Maxwell changed everything – Garfield, with his notion of “core journals” helped create a two-tier system of scientific communication; – Garfield, with his “core journals”also helped engineer an inelastic market of scholarly journals; – Maxwell, with Pergamon Press (1951) sought to create commercial journals with high profits; ➢ ➢ Maxwell tried to wrestle the control of the Science Citation Index (SCI) away from Garfield; Maxwell succeeded in creating a high-profit press for scientific journals: this completely changed the business scene of scientific publishing.
  2. 2. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● From the SCI emerged new metrics, particularly the “Impact Factor” (IF) ➢ ➢ ➢ ➢ IF's apply only to journals IF's vary with fields of knowledge IF's cannot justify three decimals (or any decimal for that matter) IF's do not refer to quality, but to visibility within certain circles
  3. 3. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● ● IF's were created to engineer a competition system, a ranking system of selected forms of visibility, not an evaluation of quality Without any justification, the use of IF's was extended to the evaluations of researchers: ➢ ➢ They have been judged according to where they published, rather than what they published Incentives, including money, have been used to incite researchers to publish in high-IF journals: THIS IS STUPID as we shall see!
  4. 4. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● How do journals select articles? ➢ Quality obviously plays a role ➢ Choice of problem is important ➢ Prestige of authors' institution is important ➢ Personal prestige of authors is important
  5. 5. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● ● Science is universal at the level of observations, experiments, concepts and theories; Science is not universal when it comes to choice of problems; ➢ ➢ ● How else can we explain neglected diseases (e.g. malaria with over 600,000 deaths – mainly children – every year)? How else can we explain “lost science” - i.e. good research results neglected in the “core” literature? Let us also remember that research funding agencies, in rich countries, prioritize research areas according to their needs.
  6. 6. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● ● ● ● ● The choice of problems in a country or a region amounts to a de facto SCIENCE POLICY; Responding to the incitations of high-IF journals amounts to fitting oneself in someone else's science policy; Trying to work with impact factor amounts to fitting local journals within someone else's science policy; Competing within an IF framework benefits only those that organize the framework, and the winners at the very top; Competing within an IF framework sets a particular journal that meets with some success as a target for take-over from multi-national publishers.
  7. 7. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● Refusing to compete on the basis of IF is sometimes portrayed as leading to: ➢ Isolation from “international” science; ➢ Mediocrity This is false!
  8. 8. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● ● ● ● Visibility should come from the whole world, and not through the lenses of rich countries only; Capacity development in science does not amount to producing a few “OECD-style” champions and neglecting the rest; Too much competition in science – often called “excellence”can actually diminish the overall quality of the whole system; Scientific capacity for development also means the ability to answer questions of relevance to the national or regional situation. This is particularly true of medicine and agriculture.
  9. 9. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● How to proceed: ➢ ➢ ➢ ➢ By stressing quality rather than excellence; By redefining the criteria of quality around articles, rather than journals (that is where it really counts); By refusing to enter into competitions whose rules are entirely out of regional control (for example impact factors); By fostering the visibility of regional science on a world scale by means that are independent from the “mainstream” indexing and bibliographic platforms;
  10. 10. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● ● ● ● ● By promoting these platforms on a South-South basis so as to create a mass of information that can no longer be ignored anywhere; By creating incentives to promote research on certain kinds of problems of relevance to the region (and those who might scream about the need for research freedom should remember that rich countries do this all the time); By creating metrics that are based on articles, not journals. SciELO and RedALyC can cooperate on this; By creating important and prestigious world prizes that are controlled by emerging and developing nations around themes relevant to them. The definition of scientific champions is not universal either; By practising internationalism on a worldwide basis, and not on the basis of rich countries. Words such as “international” or “mainstream” currently used too often refer to rich countries only.
  11. 11. Scielo at 15: new challenges ● At 15, SciELO fulfills some of these objectives, but its strong focus on impact factors is self-defeating because: ➢ ➢ ➢ ➢ It already leads to multinational publishers peeling off journals from the collection; It steers Latin American journals into problem sets that correspond to the de facto science policy of the rich countries; It creates scientific champions in Latin America that are identical to the champions from the North and this encourages the brain drain; It does not directly address the needs of emerging and developing nations.
  12. 12. Scielo at 15: new challenges MOST IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC PLATFORM in LATIN AMERICA and it is a tremendous achievement in itself. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SCIELO, and congratulations to all those, Abel Packer in particular, for making it as good as it already is. ● But some further progress and re-orientations are needed to make it the most important scientific ● This said, SciELO is THE platform OF Latin America