Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Editorial "Research Assessment: Declaring War on the Impact Factor"

Research Assessment: Declaring War on the Impact Factor

by P. Balaram

Editorial, Current Science, 104(10): 1267-1268, 25 May 2013

Nearly forty years ago, when I began my research career in India, science proceeded at a leisurely pace. There was little by way of funding or major facilities even at the best of institutions. Enthusiasm and interest were the key ingredients in maintaining a focus on research. The environment still contained many role models, who had made significant contributions to their chosen fields, under undoubtedly difficult circumstances. The mid-1970s was a time when political and economic uncertainties precluded a great deal of government interest in promoting science. There was relatively little pressure on researchers to publish papers. The age of awards and financial incentives lay in the distant future. In those more sedate times, the results of research were written up when the findings appeared interesting enough to be communicated. The choice of journals was limited and most scientists seemed to be content with submitting manuscripts to journals where their peers might indeed read the papers. Journals were still read in libraries. Note taking was common, photocopies were rare and the 'on-line journal' had not yet been conceived. The academic environment was not overtly competitive. I never heard the word 'scooped' in the context of science, until well into middle age. Eugene Garfield's 'journal impact factor' (JIF) had not penetrated into the discourse of scientists, although the parameters for ranking journals had been introduced into the literature much earlier. The word 'citation' was rarely heard. In the library of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) there was a lone volume of the 1975 Science Citation Index (a hardbound, printed version, extinct today), presumably obtained gratis, which sat forlorn and unused on rarely visited shelves. Only a few hardy and curious readers would even venture near this sample of the Citation Index, which seemed of little use. It required both effort and energy to search the literature in the 1970s. Few could have foreseen a time when administrators of science in distant Delhi would be obsessed with the many metrics of measuring science, of which the JIF was a forerunner. Indeed, the unchecked and virulent growth of the use of scientometric indices in assessing science has at last begun to attract a backlash; an 'insurgency' that has resulted in the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), whose stated intention is to begin 'putting science into the assessment of research'. The declaration is signed by 'an ad -hoc coalition of unlikely insurgents – scientists, journal editors and publishers, scholarly societies, and research funders across many scientific disciplines', who gathered at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (am.ascb.org/dora/May 16, 2013). An editorial by Bruce Alberts in the May 17 issue of Science (2013, 340, 787) notes that 'DORA aims to stop the use of the "journal impact factor" in judging an individual scientist's work in order "to correct distortions in the evaluation of scientific research" '.

The origins of the 'impact factor' may be traced to a largely forgotten paper that appeared in Science in 1927, which described a study carried out at Pomona College in California, that begins on an intriguing note: 'Whether we would have it or not, the purpose of a small college is changing'. The authors describe an attempt to draw up a priority list of chemistry journals to be obtained for the library. Budgetary constraints were undoubtedly a major matter of concern in the late 1920s. I cannot resist reproducing here the authors' stated purpose in carrying out this exercise over eighty five years ago, as their words may strike a chord in readers interested in the problem of uplifting the science departments of colleges in India today: 'What files of scientific periodicals are needed in a college library successfully to prepare the student for advanced work, taking into consideration also those materials necessary for the stimulation and intellectual development of the faculty? This latter need is quite as important as the first because of the increasing demand of the colleges for instructors with the doctorate degree. Such men are reluctant to accept positions in colleges where facilities for continuing the research which they have learned to love are lacking' (Gross, P. L. K. and Gross, E. M., Science, 1927, LXVI, 385). The procedure adopted was simple; draw up a list of journals most frequently cited in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), the flagship publication of the American Chemical Society. Much can be learnt about the history of chemistry (and, indeed, more generally about science) by examining the list of the top six journals (other than JACS) recommended for a college chemistry library in the United States, in 1927: Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, The Journal of the Chemical Society (London), Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie, Annalen der Chemie (Liebig's), The Journal of Physical Chemistry and The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Clearly, in the 1920s the literature of chemistry was overwhelmingly dominated by European journals. For students growing up in the frenetic world of modern science, I might add that Science, Nature and PNAS appear far down the list. A similar exercise carried out today would reveal a dramatically different list of journals; undoubtedly a reflection of the turbulent history of the 20th century.

The journal impact factor emerged in the 1970s as a tool to rank journals. In the early years, it was largely a metric that was of limited interest. The revolution in the biomedical sciences resulted in an explosive growth of journals in the last two decades of the 20th century; a period that coincided with the dramatic rise of information technology and the emergence of the internet. The acquisition of the Institute for Scientific Information by Thomson Reuters lent a hard commercial edge to the marketing of the tools and databases of scientometrics; the Web of Science began to enmesh the world of science.  Journal impact factors appear unfailingly, every year, making the business of publishing science journals an extremely competitive exercise. Journal editors scramble to devise schemes for enhancing impact factors and scientists are drawn to submit articles to journals that appear high on the ranking lists. If JIFs were used only to compare journals there may have been little to grumble about. Unfortunately, individuals soon began to be judged by the impact factors of the journals in which they had published. Some years ago the use of an 'average impact factor' was actively promoted in India, to judge both individuals and institutions. The introduction of the 'h-index', a citation based parameter that appeared in the literature a few years ago, as a means of ranking individual performance, may have drawn away a few adherents of the average impact factor. Very few proponents of the JIF as an assessment tool in India appear conscious of obvious limitations. Most impact factors are driven up by a few highly cited papers, while others bask in reflected glory. The field specific nature of the JIF can lead to extremely misleading conclusions, when comparing individuals and institutions using this imperfect metric. Despite these drawbacks, the use of JIF as a tool of research assessment has reached epidemic proportions worldwide, with countries like India, China and the countries of southern Europe being among the hardest hit. Students in India, particularly those working in the biological sciences and chemistry in many of our best institutions, are especially self conscious; constantly worrying about the JIF when they submit papers.

The Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is a call to take up arms against the insidious JIF. Its general recommendation is a call for a boycott: 'Do not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist's contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.' Scholarship and achievement can be judged without using a metric that was never designed for the purpose. The Declaration also has a message that may well be worth heeding by researchers in India: 'Challenge research assessment practices that rely inappropriately on Journal Impact Factors and promote and teach best practice that focuses on the value and influence of specific research outputs.' In his Science editorial, Alberts is trenchant: 'The misuse of the journal impact factor is highly destructive, inviting a gaming of the metric that can bias journals against publishing papers in fields (such as social sciences or ecology) that are much less cited than others (such as biomedicine).'

Research assessments have also become commonplace in ranking institutions. The metrics used rely substantially on publication numbers and citations, invariably based on the Web of Science, although additional parameters contribute in differing ranking schemes. In recent times, both the Prime Minister and the President have publicly lamented that no Indian university or institution appeared in the 'top 200' in the world (The Hindu, 5 February 2013 and 16 April 2013). While there may be much to lament about in Indian higher education, are the rankings really an issue that needs immediate attention? In an Op-Ed piece in The Hindu (9 March 2013), Philip Altbach is categorical: 'For India, or other developing countries to obsess about rankings is a mistake. There may be lessons, but not rules.... The global rankings measure just one kind of academic excellence, and even here the tools of measurement are far from perfect.' Altbach notes, and many analysts would undoubtedly agree, that two systems, 'the Academic Ranking of World Universities, popularly known as the "Shanghai rankings", and the World University Rankings of Times Higher Education (THE) are methodologically respectable and can be taken seriously'. While the former measures only research impact, with several parameters weighted towards the highest level of achievement (number of Nobel prize recipients in an institution), the latter 'measures a wider array of variables'. Altbach adds: 'Research and its impact is at the top of the list, but reputation is also included as are several other variables such as teaching quality and internationalization. But since there is no real way to measure teaching or internationalization weak proxies are used. Reputation is perhaps the most controversial element in most of the national and global rankings.' Altbach's critique, of an apparent obsession with university rankings in India, was quickly countered by Phil Baty, the editor of THE rankings who warns: '...it would be a far greater mistake for Indian institutions and policy makers to under-use the global rankings than to overuse them' (The Hindu, 11 April 2013). It may indeed be important for institutions to appreciate the rules of the game if they are to achieve a competitive score. Policy makers would also benefit if they set out to understand the tools of research assessment before they begin to use them.

Source: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/104/10/1267.pdf

Article "Missing Connections" by Sarandha Jain, CSSP

Missing Connections  
by Sarandha
Himal SouthAsian, 08 April 2013

Girja Kumar's book on the Indus and the cultures tied to it obscures a tremendous wealth of interconnected histories and beliefs.
The Indus People: Saraiki Saga and Sufi-Sant Renaissance; By Girja Kumar; Vitasta, 2013.

It has been found that most ancient communities shared deep-seated, multifarious and intricate links with rivers. Rivers have been the life-blood of civilisations, spawning them for time immemorial. Every riverbank endures the footprints of myriad different lives. Rivers have been of utmost importance to everyday human life due to the simple fact that they are sources of water, locomotion, trade and livelihoods. The multitude of ways in which humans interact with rivers makes them much more than just waterways. It is this realisation that induces immense respect for rivers in several societies.
Going beyond sustenance, rivers have also been sources of inspiration for creativity, symbols of enlightenment, sites for cultural activities and spiritual discourses. Intrinsic components in all rites of passage from birth to death, rivers seem to invoke both celebration and sorrow. So much a part of both the mundane and the sublime, they are simultaneously taken for granted, and deeply revered. This is especially the case in the Subcontinent, where rivers are elevated to the status of goddesses.
We find in cities today a trend of looking at the past to find one's roots in order to combat the alienation and rootlessness that urban and cosmopolitan sensibilities sometimes foster. Several books have been written in this vein: Empires of the Indus, The Lost River, and my own, In Search of Yamuna. The Indus People by Girja Kumar also responds to this mood of journeying into the Subcontinent's history to uncover the shared roots of India and Pakistan, which have more in common than either nation-state might want to believe. It is a cultural history of the north-western part of the Subcontinent, without viewing India and Pakistan as two separate countries but as a region watered by the Indus, and a civilisation cradled by the culture cultivated along and around this river. The main aspects of culture that this book touches upon are the Saraiki language accredited to the Indus basin, the Sufi-Bhakti cult, the legend of the Mahabharata, the Vedic and Sikh religions, and the various Punjabi communities and castes.
Attempting to trace this shared culture of language, literature, philosophical and spiritual discourse back to the Indus River, the book falls short of drawing substantive links between these different aspects and the river. While discussing the Indus, the book does not address how people of this region derive their identity from it, nor how the philosophical traditions and languages mentioned in the book are linked with the river. While discussing the Sufi-Bhakti cult, Kumar ignores the river's significance, as he does while discussing Saraiki identity. Failing to link concepts of language, culture, religion and region with each other and with the river, the book leaves the reader with several characters but no story of how they meet.

Simply bad scholarship
This dearth of connecting lines runs throughout the book. Kumar repeatedly refers to geographical regions, rivers and unheard of places, but the absence of maps is conspicuous. The lack of these and other key details in the text leaves readers with no way of contextualising the information that is provided. In a few instances, these details are mentioned in passing at a much later stage and in an arbitrary fashion. There is a constant need to locate these spaces, people and languages in current geo-political spaces, with current names of those locations and languages.
Not only is there a lack of connections and contextualisation, but the information that is provided about the river, languages, saints and religions is very sketchy, arranged out of chronological order, repetitive and often irrelevant. The descriptions are customarily non-academic and superficial. This makes the entire narrative rather incoherent and fragmented, as the author skips from discussing the Mahabharata to the Baloch tribes, and then suddenly to Saraiki and back to the Indus. This jumping between the river, language, people and religion is a mark of this book as it happens in nearly every chapter, with less than a page devoted to each. In this constant back and forth between a set of four or five concepts and several time zones, the reader is left with pieces of unrelated information, scattered facts and disjointed ideas, which one doesn't know how to piece together. Several subjects appear out of nowhere, as with the Mahabharata, as no attempts have been made to draw an association between it and the language and culture discussed in the book. One wonders why so many chapters have been devoted to the Mahabharata even though it has not been woven into the general theme of the book.
The section on the castes and communities of the Punjab is surprisingly comprehensive, at least for the lay reader. An ethnologist would, however, be in a better position to comment on the data and the inferences drawn. The sections on Sufi and Bhakti cults, although extensive, are approached in a way that, instead of giving one holistic picture of the philosophies and ideas of the cults, deals with each saint separately and offers almost the same account about each one. The reader would perhaps prefer to learn more about the ontology of these cults than the characteristics and personalities of each saint. Here, Kumar also seems to have no qualms about presenting his personal opinions as facts, assuming history to be neutral. This leads him to make sweeping statements on several occasions.
He also appears oddly preoccupied with trying to categorise the saints as Hindu or Muslim, which defeats the very purpose of any discussion on Sufi-Bhakti cults, which consciously chose to transcend religious boundaries. Moreover, the author's own bias towards Vedantic thought is revealed many times in recurrent statements about Vedantic influence on Indian Sufism – perhaps as a deliberate attempt to attract Hindu audiences. Such a notion discounts the theory that ideas present in Vedantic philosophy pervaded Islamic thought from before its entry into India, and that these are what the Sufis drew from. The discussion on Bhakti cults in other parts of the country seems somehow misplaced, especially considering that the author could more appropriately have juxtaposed them with the developments in Saraiki literature and Sufi cults in the Punjab. Since the book is defined by rivers, it would be interesting to see how Bhakti traditions comprehend the Yamuna (in Krishna-related poetry) and Sufi traditions relate to the Indus (which is worshipped by Hindus and Muslims alike as the Zinda Pir, or the 'Living Saint'). This too, however, has been strangely omitted.
Often, names of people and places are mentioned without any explanation, description or history, as if the reader is expected to be familiar with them already. It also leads to a casual writing style, where vernacular words are neither italicised nor translated, jargon is not defined and explained, and context is overlooked, rendering the book more an anthology of Kumar's opinions, strung together without foundation. He presents the Mahabharata as history, without clearly stating at the outset that this is his belief. There are almost no citations, which is bizarre for a book on history and geography, and the author presents numerous pieces of data as if they were products of his own research.
It is impossible to miss the frequent spelling, punctuation and spacing errors, betraying the text's lack of editing and proofreading. It pans out as less of an academic engagement with the subjects at hand and more of a drawing-room discussion, with the purpose of reminiscing about the Punjab that was, and writing an ode to it. It also leaves one speculating on what the book is really about – what is the author trying to tell us about the Indus basin? Amid scattered bits of information, the purpose of the book is lost and the title seems misleading – the Indus rarely serves as a common denominator. After reading the entire book, one may still be unsure of exactly what the difference between Saraiki and Punjabi is, whether Saraiki is still spoken in its original form, why there has been a recent upsurge in Saraiki identity, how is the language linked with the Indus, and what the river's place is in Saraiki culture.
For a book to be a biography of the Indus and its people, certain elements are vital – the river's geographical and ecological details, its history, the myriad cultural perceptions held about it, the cultures and religions of the people it sustains and its role in their lives. The historical journey should take the reader on an odyssey that cruises chronologically through the Indus Valley civilisation, Vedic civilisation, the drying up of the Sarasvati and its impact on Indus cultures, the post-Vedic shift towards the Ganga basin, new languages and religions arriving after foreign invasions, finally leading to the Sufi-Bhakti cults and their linkages with Saraiki. This could end with a discussion of the recent upsurge in Saraiki identity, and the place of the river in Saraiki and Sufi culture today.
This book's subject matter is of great significance at a time when several works on the region's rivers are emerging. Kumar's treatment unfortunately lacks finesse. This book could have been a great work: unravelling the common Punjabi heritage of India and Pakistan, dating back to pre-Vedic times and all the way up to Sufism and Sikhism, connecting these with the Indus, thereby establishing the nuanced relationships between civilisations and rivers, going beyond political frontiers. Although this book attempts to do so, it doesn't deliver, and so the fluvial histories of Saraiki and Sufism are yet to be unveiled.

~ Sarandha is the author of In Search of Yamuna: Reflections on a River Lost (Vitasta, 2011). After working with the Centre for Science and Environment, she is currently a research scholar at the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Source: http://www.himalmag.com/component/content/article/5162-missing-connections.html

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Qualitative and Quantitative Methods for Research in Social Sciences; July 15-28; at CMDR, Dharwad, Karnataka

Qualitative and Quantitative Methods for Research in Social Sciences

A Capacity Building Programme for Faculty in Social Sciences

July 15-28, 2013

at Centre for Multi-disciplinary Development Research (CMDR), Dharwad, Karnataka


Centre for Multi-disciplinary Development Research (CMDR), a national level institute for multi-disciplinary research and training in social sciences recognised by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), is organising a 'Capacity Building Programme for Faculty in Social Sciences' from 15th July 2013 to 28th July 2013.

This programme is sponsored by Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi. The programme will be open to all faculty members of social science disciplines in research institutions, colleges and university UG/PG departments.

Preference will be given to SC and women candidates. Those who are interested in attending the course must submit their application in the prescribed format to the Co-ordinator, Capacity Building Programme-2013, Centre for Multi-disciplinary Development Research (CMDR), Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Nagar, Near Yellaki Shettar Colony, Dharwad-580004, Karnataka or at the following e-mail address (cmdrcap2013@gmail.com) by May 30th 2013.

The organisers will pay 3-tier AC fare and will take care of local hospitality for out-station participants.

Decisions on selection will be communicated by June 15th 2013.

Dr. Jai Prabhakar S C (Course Director)

Dr. Rajesh Raj S N (Course Co-Director)

Prof. Pushpa Trivedi (Director, CMDR & Patron of the Course)

Application and details of the programme can be downloaded HERE.

XVI International Conference on “Translation, Comparatism and the Global South”; Mysore; 15-18 December 2013

Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda

XVI International Conference on "Translation, Comparatism and the Global South"

In collaboration with Department of Studies in English, University of Mysore

Date: 15-18 December 2013

Venue: Hotel Regaalis, Mysore, India

Cultures meet, interact and contend with one another through processes of translation; and comparison is a convenient means to study disparate cultures in relationship to one another. Thus translation and comparatism are intimately linked. The aim of the conference is to reflect on the uses and abuses of translation and comparative methods in the background of history, cultures and politics of the Global South. It invites approaches to translation from the point of view of 'theory', 'trope' and 'practice' in the contexts of past, present and future.
Keynote Speakers:(a) Simon Gikandi is Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University.
(b) Arjun Appadurai is the Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.

Abstract Submission and Registration: 500-word abstract or proposal is due by August 30, 2013 as an email attachment to S. Shankar, the Convener of the Conference (subraman@hawaii.edu). The completed paper should reach the Convener of the Forum on Contemporary Theory (prafullakar@gmail.com) by November 15, 2013.
The last date for receiving the registration fee is September 20, 2013.

For a detailed concept note or information on registration, please visit: www.fctworld.org or email prafullakar@gmail.com
For further information any of the following may be contacted:
Prafulla C. Kar (Email: prafullakar@gmail.com), S. Shankar (Email: subraman@hawaii.edu), Mahadeva (Email: mahadev_kunderi@yahoo.co.uk)

Further Details: www.fctworld.org/16th international_conference.htm

CfPs: National Conference on Science in Society and Development: Nehru and Beyond; 23-24 October 2013; JMI, Delhi

National Conference on Science in Society and Development: Nehru and Beyond

Venue: Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

23-24 October 2013

Organized by Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia

& Vigyan Prasar, Department of Science & Technology (DST)


Call for Papers

The broad themes of the Conference are:

  • Science-Society Relationship in Modern Development
  • Social Reform and Science Communication
  • Science Education as a Medium of Dissemination and Communication
  • Technology, Livelihoods and Communication
  • Gender and Social Equity in Production and Dissemination of Science &
  • Science in the Public Domain

Academics and policymakers are invited to deliberate at the conference. Participants should submit original papers that will refereed by a panel of well recognized experts. These papers are expected to be published as a volume on the proceedings.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

CfPs: 4th CESI Annual International Conference 2013; at ISI, Kolkata; December 28-30

4th CESI Annual International Conference 2013

Theme: Education, Diversity and Democracy

Venue: ISI, Kolkata Campus

December 28-30, 2013

Comparative Education Society of India (CESI) (An Affiliate of the World Congress of Comparative Education Societies)

Organised by Department of Economics, University of Calcutta in association with Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata; Institute for Development Studies, Kolkata; Pratichi Institute, Kolkata

For any nation, progress in educational front – school education, higher education and technical education – is a prerequisite for development. It takes into account all three dimensions together: economic, social and cultural development. Also, educational progress has more than one positive externality across generations. Education is thus, in true sense, a representative example of multi-disciplinary research. Another feature, simultaneously true, is that it is a combination of academic research and field based action oriented research.
An international conference on education is a right platform for the purpose of dissemination and exchange of research results involving all these areas and related fields. The Department of Economics, University of Calcutta, as a part of its centenary celebration, is hosting this international conference under the aegis of the Comparative Education Society of India (CESI). Three premiere research institutes of Kolkata – the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), The Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata (IDSK), and the Pratichi Institute – are co-operating in such an effort of the University.

The CESI Annual Conference 2013 seeks to bring together a variety of theoretical and empirical perspectives to arrive at a better understanding of the issues involved. Through a reflexive inter-action, scholars and researchers in the field of education would deliberate on the challenges facing our country and the world.
The suggested sub-themes of the conference are as follows:
  • Challenges of multicultural education
  • Education and its relationship with democracy
  • Inequalities in education
  • Empirical and theoretical perspectives on diversity in education
  • Affirmative action policies and its effects
  • Methods of assessment, evaluation and social ranking
  • Teacher education
  • Educational policies and practices
  • Management of diversity in schools/educational governance
  • Work, occupations and educational transformations
  • Community participation and civil society organizations in education
  • Education of marginal groups
  • Private sector in education
  • Education and gender
  • Curriculum and pedagogy
  • Social movements and politics of change in education
  • Migration and education/Education of migrant groups
  • Technology and changing classroom practices
  • The history of educational systems
  • Experiencing pluralism in schools/colleges
  • Poverty and Education
  • Inclusion of weaker sections including the differently abled
  • Concepts, theories and methods in educational studies
  • Education and development
  • Education, pluralism and conflict
  • Analyzing textbooks with reference to equality, diversity and inclusion
  • The state of education in West Bengal

Call for Papers
Papers are invited on any of the themes mentioned under concept note. The list of sub-themes is only suggestive. The abstracts must give a sense of the uniqueness of the topic and the theoretical or empirical or analytical research grounding of the themes chosen for presentation. The abstracts must state the research questions/problems succinctly. Abstracts are also expected to include literature survey and research methodology. Participants are requested to contribute original and well researched papers for the conference.Peer review process will be followed in accepting papers for presentation. Proposals for panel discussion are also invited.
Abstracts should ideally be within 500 words, typed in Times New Roman font of size 12 point with 1.5 line spacing. The margins of the page should be set to 1 inch (2.54 cm) on the four sides of a A4 size paper. 3 key words must be mentioned at the bottom of the abstract. The abstracts should be submitted in doc (or docx) and preferably also in pdf file formats.
Along with abstracts a one page top sheet containing following information should also be submitted: (i) Author's name(s); (ii) Title of the paper; (iii) Institutional affiliation and designation; (iv) Mobile no. and (v) E-mail id. This doc file should be saved in the name of the author (first author in case of joint authors). These information are required to give you updates relating to conference.
The abstracts and panel proposals may be sent to the Conference Organizing Secretary, Dr. Rabindranath Mukhopadhyay at : submit@cesikolkata2013.in. The last date of submission of abstracts is 30 June, 2013.

Important Dates
Last date for submission of Abstracts: 30th June, 2013
Confirmation of acceptance of the abstracts/ panels: 16th August, 2013
Last date for sending full papers: 27th October, 2013

Further details: www.cesikolkata2013.in