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Changing research evaluation policies in China — insights and impacts

In February 2020, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and Ministry of Education (MoE) published policy documents to initiate a steer away from assessing research by the number of articles published and SCI-listed journals to a focus on publishing a limited number of high quality papers.

In this free webinar, our speakers provide insights into the background of these policy announcements and their potential impact on publishers, research institutions and researchers. Speakers are:

  • Dr. Shuai Yan, Beijing-based publishing consultant
  • Christos Petrou, founder and Chief Analyst at Scholarly Intelligence

Here are some of their key points.

1. China will classify science and technology (S&T) evaluation into basic and applied research.

For basic research evaluation, a system of representative papers will be implemented. This will include no less than a third of papers published in China-based S&T journals.

Shuai Yan, PhDShaui said: “One of the elements being introduced is that the MOST will increase the weight and assessment of high value work to encourage the publication of high quality papers. In this evaluation, the quality and impact of landmark achievements will be more of the focus.”

2. China will recognize three types of papers as high quality:

  • Papers published in domestic S&T journals with international influence.
  • Papers in top tier or important international S&T journals.
  • Papers delivered at top academic conferences at home and abroad.

Shaui explained:

For points one and two the important international journals and the top conferences will be selected by academic committees of universities and research institutes. Overall the aim is to place an emphasis on fewer but better papers when it comes to evaluating researchers and their research institutions.

Shaui also noted that China is going to eliminate “Science Citation Index (SCI) worship” and abandon the practice of “judging papers by journals.” Universities and concerned institutions shall not adopt, quote or promote the rankings compiled with SCI papers and Essential Science Indicators (ESI) as core indicators.

3. China’s research output accounts for no less than 20 percent of global academic journal output. As a result, the newly announced policies will have implications for research stakeholders worldwide.

Christos said:

Whatever happens in China should matter globally. One of the goals of this new policy is to move away from rating performance based exclusively on science citation index (SCIE) journals. In the past, Chinese researchers have truly tried to publish in SCIE journals. Their global share of publications is 20 percent; in SCIE journals, it’s higher. In top-tier SCIE journals, it’s 25 percent, and the flip-side is that in the non-SCIE journals, it’s 5 percent.

Volume of global content and proportion of China conent by type of journal.  (<em>2018 Articles and Reviews per Web of Science Core Collection Journal Data</em>)

4. Operational challenges are likely to slow down the policies’ implementation and their impact.

Through trial and error, however, the Chinese administration is likely to eventually succeed in strengthening the local publishing industry and creating its own tools and standards for research evaluation.

Christos PetrouAs Christos explained:

Setting up a lot of journals locally takes time. And setting up your own list of journals in a recurring sustainable way, you need an abstracting and indexing database – something like Scopus or Web of Science. That also takes time. It’s not a simple task. Article output is also dependent on how much research is being conducted. It might be that this policy is implemented and we don’t see a drop in output. Also we might not see a change in habit among researchers who are used to publishing in high impact journals. But it is reasonable to expect that researchers will adapt to the new policy.


Access the free on-demand webinar

Dr. Shuai Yan

Dr. Shuai Yan is a Beijing-based publishing consultant. His previous career endeavors include Academic Relationship Director at Springer Nature Greater China, Associate Chief Editor of Tsinghua University Press (TUP) and Director of TUP’s Journal Publishing Center, and Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Tsinghua University (Science and Technology). Prior to Tsinghua University, he held several senior roles at Beijing Forestry University (BFU) and with multiple prestigious societies and government organizations in China.

Christos Petrou

Christos Petrou is founder and Chief Analyst at Scholarly Intelligence, where he supports stakeholders in the scholarly communications industry with analytics and strategy services. He is a former analyst of the Web of Science Group at Clarivate Analytics and the Open Access portfolio at Springer Nature. He previously worked as a consultant for A.T. Kearney, and he holds an MBA from INSEAD. A geneticist by training, he received technical training at Zhejiang University.


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