2010/06/20

14. European Universities: Reactions to abuses and misuses of bibliometrics and bureaucracy in evaluation of researchers

Source: Euro-American Association of Economic Development Studies. Report 2010.

Some important challenges of European Union are to foster reasearch on development in its space and also improve international cooperation for research and development

Our main conclusion in this regard is that the European Union should improve channels of communication with researchers interested in these questions, instead of stress them with an overwhelming and unnecessary bureaucratic rules.

This graph presents a comparison of expenditure in Research and Development in several European Countries (Germany: De, France: Fr, Finland: Fi and Spain: Es) in comparison with the United States: USA, and Japan: Jp. France values represent the average of former UE15 countries, with the United Kingdom very alike and Italy below although higher than Spain.
In many European countries, university researchers not only receive less financial support for research but also, in several countries, experience more difficulties than in the USA in research evaluations due to abuses and misuses of bibliometric criteria for evaluaton. Bibliometrics may be used, among other criteria, for international comparisons of countries and even in some degree, of course together with other suplementary criteria, at university level. As stated by Anthony Van Kaan, Director of the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University (Netherlands): "If there is one thing that every bibliometrician agrees, it is that you should never use the journal impact factor to evaluate research performance for an article or for an individual - that is a mortal sin".
See Nature nº 465 of June 2010 at:
Unfortunately in some countries bureaucrats of Evalution Committes are not so wise as Anthony Van Kaan expects, and there are abuses and misuses of bibliometrics.
We will include here some important reactions that have arisen in Europe against the abuses and misuses of bibliometric rigidity in evaluations. To avoid those unfair abuses and misuses is goods news not only for European researchers but also for other countries where university researhcers are also suffering this kind of abuses. There are also other beneficial effects of avoiding unfair practices in European bureaucracies: a good policy of support to researchers in Economics, Social Sciences and other areas will have a clear positive effect on European cooperation to developing countries.
Problems and perspectives of support to researchers in Europe:
Problem 1) Only a few European countries provide enough financial support without unnecesary bureaucratic barriers to researchers. It is important to foster activities of tearchers unions and associations in countries with very low level of support to researchers, like Spain, in order to achieve higher levels of support from Government and public institutions. Improvements requiere not only to increase financial support but also diminish bureaucratic barriers with obscure and unfair rules which are time-consuming and do not help to many good researchers. A net of European researchers associations good be a positive support in this regard, accordingly to the positive experience of the National Tearchers Association and other organizations in the United States.
Problem 2) The Commission of the European Union has been until now (June of 2010) too much bureacratic and less effective to foster EU research. EU Commision suffers in many regards "euro-sclerosis" a kind of bureaucratic illness, which is a barrier that does not help to foster university research in many fields. Although in technology and some experimental sciences there are some fortunate teams which have reached support form EU a serious criticism is that EU rarely supports European communication in socio-economics and other ares of great importance not only for European development but also to improve international cooperation with developing countries. Universities and academic Associations do not receive almost any support for multilingual publications in the most spoken languages of Europe. It is a great news to know that some universities have signed in year 2009 an agreement to foster an European University Press addressed to increase readership in several countries of some of the main publications of European universities. It should be interesting to see if the EU authorities support this and other interesting initiatives from private or public organizations in this regard.
Reactions against this illness: As seen in ForoUnives2010 (entry in English) more than 13000 European researchers have signed the Manifesto "Trust in Researchers" in order to request a diminution of the overwhelming amount of bureaucratic and time-consuming barriers to European funding that researchers find every year. For the moment we have got a positive promise from European Union Commission. Now we are waiting for real changes in this regards.
Many researchers think that it is good news the promise of alleviate this bureaucratic barriers by EU Commissiariat of Science as seen in Nature of 15th June of 2010:
For the moment it seems good news for natural and experimental sciences. We will be glad to report in the future if new EU policies also increase support to Social Sciencies and Humanities.

Problem 3) Abuse and misuse of bibliometrics for research evaluation in several EU countries. We report here the situation in several countries against the unfair bureaucratic movement addressed to impose bibliometrics as a mechanic system of research evaluation
Spain: Thousands of researchers have signed a Manifesto in Spain against the unfair procedures of the Ministry of Education during the period 1989-2010, and particularly since 1994, when they imposed bibliometric misuse on Economics and Other Social Sciences, and other unfair procedures on the individual evaluation of researchers in the "six-years evaluation" of activity known as "Sexenios". The problem is not yet solved by the Ministry of Education, in spite of support to several pleas of the Manifesto by the Senate of Spain, Commission of University Rectors and other institutions, Associations, Trade Unions and other social forces for the period 1994-2010.
Updated 14th November 2010: A good news is that a Committee of Univesity Rectors related with Economics and Business studies (CR8) has reached an agreement by unanimity with the Committe of Deans of Spanishs Faculties of Economics and Business to present to the Ministry of Education, Angel Gabilondo, a proposal of new criteria for evaluation of researchers more realistic and which is expected to give more support to good researchers. We are waiting for new more fair rules from the Ministry. We expect to inform here if in the future we get good news in this regard. More information in Spanish at ForoUnives 2010.

UK: It is remarkable the positive reaction of the Parliament of Great Britain in order to avoid bibliometric abuses in the Research Assessment Exercices as seen in the Tenth Report of year 2004 by the Select Committe on Science and Tecnololgy. Regarding the right criticisms against bibliometrics abuses in the Social Sciences it is interesting to mention the positive impact of articles by Claire Donovan, as those published in academic journals and in the Times Higher Education (THE).
Germany:
France
Other European countries:
This entry will be soon updated.

Links to other Website with interesting information on abuse and misuse of bibliometrics:
August 12, 2008. "The Use And Misuse Of Bibliometric Indices In Evaluating Scholarly Performance" http://zzzoot.blogspot.com/2008/08/use-and-misuse-of-bibliometric-indices.html