'Golden Reference' Recognizes HSE's Most Important Research
HSE and the publishing house Elsevier have inaugurated the Golden Reference award to recognize researchers whose articles are most cited and which have the greatest influence on the development of research and society. Ingrid van de Stadt, Regional Director for Marketing at Elsevier, has talked to HSE News Service about how best to evaluate the quality of academic publications, and what is often left out of this evaluation.
— Ingrid, you gave a consultation seminar for HSE staff who want their work to be published in international academic journals. What benefits does this type of meeting have? How do they benefit Elsevier and how useful are they for researchers?
— They do have a certain benefit. Of course, meetings like this are certainly not the only way of helping us as publishers reach out to researchers, but they are vital for Elsevier. It is thanks to them that we understand what concerns researchers have and what problems they face when seeking to publish their work, as well as what support they may need.
— From your experience of interacting with researchers, what type of obstacles do they most often face? And are there specific problems that Russian researchers face?
— On the whole I am involved with developing countries, and the main difficulty faced in these countries, and for post-Soviet countries, is related to language and communications. Researchers find it quite difficult not only to write articles in English but to understand what their international colleagues are writing about. Without a solid knowledge of the English language and the development of international contacts in this area it will indeed be difficult for them to advance to a higher level.
— Russian universities and researchers have for several years been working to increase their presence in international citations databases such as Scopus. Is this bearing fruit?
— The number of articles indexed by Scopus and published in peer-reviewed journals is certainly growing. The intensity of cooperation and interaction between Russian researchers and their international colleagues is also increasing, which helps the international academic community be better informed about the latest developments in Russian research. But if you are looking at some kind of objective data then the relative growth in the share of Russian publications included is significantly slower.
This award is a real chance to shine a spotlight on academics whose work can stand as an example for their colleagues, other communities, and people who are involved in making decisions regarding resources
— Is it true to say that people working in the social sciences and humanities suffer most?
— That's an interesting comment and I think it may well be fair to say that. There is another problem these areas of academia face – the lack of any real metrics. In the natural sciences there are clear, reliable indicators as to publication quality – and chiefly here we mean citation. In the social sciences and humanities publications tend to be cited less. That is why we need to apply indicators to normalize citation, which take into account the specifics of each different area of research. But even that approach doesn't always work.
— So how can you measure article quality?
— I think that solely focussing on citation indices would be a misguided and far too narrow approach. The academic community, including publishers, needs to find alternative approaches to measuring the importance of academic work, especially in the humanities. Elsevier is involved in looking for and adopting these alternatives. For example, we offer users not only information about typical features such as citation, but also indicators of the impact an academic publication has had on social media, how it has been shared, and whether they’ve been covered in the national press – because this indicates the social impact. And of course how they are viewed by the expert community is also key.
— Is the ‘Golden Reference’ award that Elsevier and HSE have launched this year also focused on this task?
— This is a great idea – rewarding outstanding success achieved by researchers and their work. The award illustrates what outstanding academic research should look like, and these awards are a real chance to shine a spotlight on academics whose work can stand as an example for their colleagues, other communities, and people who are involved in making decisions regarding resources. We are helping to indicate how important it is that money is invested in research and access to scientific information. We don’t have any other awards like this in Russian universities, but this is something we do – in different ways – around the world.
— How do you select the winner?
— There is a short list based on an evaluation of their normalized citation rates, and then we look at the ‘soft categories’. The jury members, who come from diverse academic backgrounds, consider how an article is written, how accessible it is to other academics, whether it could serve as the basis for further research, the social benefit it might have, whether it boosts the university’s reputation, whether it helps the country’s development. I am confident that this kind of discussion will help ensure the jury selects the best candidate.
The names of the winners will be announced at Golden HSE award ceremony on December 20, 2016. Candidates for Golden HSE award can be nominated through December 7, 2016.