Is academic citation data fit for use in decisions on tenure and promotion?
In a Special Report on the academic publishing crisis, Steve Fuller outlines how imperfections and gaming in the academic citation market raise important questions over its use in choosing which researchers to push up the career ladder. Jenny J Lee and Alma Maldonado-Maldonado outline the dangers of differentiating research universities from teaching universities, with the most concerning being the effect on social and economic inequality, while Pushkar calls on the Indian government to make research and publishing optional rather than compulsory for teachers across India’s higher education sector except for those at research institutions.
In Commentary, Roger Y Chao Jr and Stig Arne Skjerven anticipate re-energised efforts in the Asia-Pacific region to enhance higher education access, quality and mobility with the Tokyo Recognition Convention coming into force next year. Hazri Jamil, Wan Chang Da and Ooi Poh Ling say Malaysia’s transformation from a sending country into a destination country for international students needs an additional focus on internationalisation-at-home policies to widen the benefits to all students. And Claudia Frittelli says findings show that African academic diaspora linkage programmes leverage additional funds and expertise, and African governments should recognise the benefits of both.
In Features, Yojana Sharma reports on evidence emerging that academics in Xinjiang have disappeared after major purges of the region’s universities in Beijing’s crackdown on the Uighur Muslim population. Wagdy Sawahel reports that Iranian universities are rapidly expanding their branches in Sub-Saharan Africa, which higher education experts see either as enhancing academia or an attempt to expand Iran’s soft power and influence. And Sharon Dell reports on Professor Adekeye Adebajo’s contention that transformation of South African universities will have to be fought for in what is likely to be a “long and tortuous battle”.
Brendan O’Malley – Managing Editor
NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report
United States universities continue to dominate the Times Higher Education or THE World University Rankings this year but are mostly static or in decline; while Japan overtakes the United Kingdom as the second most-represented nation and China continues to march up the rankings and takes top spot in Asia.
The 2019 Times Higher Education or THE World University Rankings analysis shows marked improvement for Asian universities at the expense of stagnation or decline in North America, Europe and Oceania, while Latin American and African universities are still struggling to make an impact on the rankings.
Indian Institutes of Technology will pool their resources to hire professors collectively from abroad – in a drive to fill a severe shortage of faculty at the country’s top institutions. Each will be allotted a region in the United States or another part of the world to target.
Hong Kong’s universities are nervously looking at student reaction in the wake of the shock banning of the Hong Kong National Party – which espouses Hong Kong’s independence from China – last week, following a new warning from the city’s education authorities.
Sarah Brown, The Chronicle of Higher Education
The extraordinary United States Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday involving Christine Blasey Ford and Brett M Kavanaugh grappled with many of the same questions that have been intrinsic to the debate over campus sexual assault and harassment and how to deal with it.
While most African governments are upbeat about e-learning opportunities, they often ignore the fact that information and communications technology infrastructure is expensive and out of reach of many schools and even universities, former World Bank managing director Dr Mamphela Ramphele told the eLearning Africa conference in Rwanda last week.
A new study has revealed that, on average, United Kingdom students miss 10 hours of classes a month, yet UK universities are struggling to keep up with the remote study trend, which has taken off in the workplace to adapt to modern lifestyles.
Jan Petter Myklebust
Concern has been raised about a growing culture of ‘political correctness’ imposed by universities in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries that is said to be stifling open debate and academic freedom, and even creating a culture of fear among staff at universities.
The African Research Universities Alliance has launched two new centres of excellence, based at the University of Lagos in Nigeria – the first to be launched outside of South Africa.
The German National Association for Student Affairs has published a survey on the situation of students with disabilities and chronic diseases, which finds that this group is confronted with a wide range of impediments at university, hindering their studies.
Government-funded scientific research has been undertaken for the first time to investigate the economic impact of sanctions. Zimbabwe lost about US$4.8 billion worth of revenue in the manufacturing sector in 2010 and US$2.1 billion in 2015 due to Western sanctions, preliminary results show.
Roger Y Chao Jr and Stig Arne Skjerven
When the Tokyo Recognition Convention comes into force next year, it has the potential to become a milestone on the way to a borderless Asia-Pacific Higher Education Area and to re-energise efforts to enhance access, mobility and quality in higher education.
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Hazri Jamil, Wan Chang Da and Ooi Poh Ling
Malaysia’s desire to be an international education hub would benefit from a broader approach through internationalisation-at-home policies that reach all students. A comparison of a private and a public university show significant differences in investment in internationalisation and the types of opportunity offered.
Early findings of African academic diaspora linkage programmes show that they offer a range of benefits to home and host institutions, including academic expertise and funding – and the linkages are long-lasting. African governments should recognise the value of intellectual, not just financial, remittances.
THE PUBLISHING CRISIS
There is a crisis in academic publishing – too much pressure on top journals, too many books of marginal quality, the rise of predatory journals and publishers that publish low or marginal quality research and tremendous pressure on academics worldwide to publish, according to Philip Altbach and Hans de Wit. Their argument has triggered a continuing debate among higher education experts.
Is the academic citation market that is used to decide tenure sufficiently ‘free’ to inspire confidence that metrics can ever truly reveal whose work has substantively mattered the most to the research community?
Jenny J Lee and Alma Maldonado-Maldonado
Suggestions to differentiate published research universities from mostly teaching universities are disturbing, as the implications are not only that social, economic and institutional inequities would remain unaddressed and probably worsen, but that the distribution dynamics of global wealth would be affected negatively.
Unlike in the West, the publishing crisis in India is due to the government’s policy of making research compulsory across all institutions without taking into account their different nature, the quality of faculty or the lack of basic facilities for research.
Names have emerged of academics in Xinjiang who disappeared, possibly to Xinjiang’s vast internment camps, after major purges of the region’s universities, as Beijing’s widespread crackdown on the Uighur Muslim population of the Northwest province of Xinjiang engulfed higher education.
Iranian universities are rapidly expanding their branches in both number and capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa, in a move seen by higher education experts as either enhancing academia on the continent, or attempting to extend Iranian cultural diplomacy or 'soft power' to serve Iranian political, economic, religious and cultural agendas.
The transformation of South African universities will not be “handed over on a silver platter” but will have to be fought for in what is likely to be a “long and tortuous” battle, a recent conference focused on ‘decolonisation’ of university humanities curricula heard.
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South Africa’s Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor is organising an emergency crisis meeting with universities after close to 50 rape cases were reported on campuses across the country. Statistics handed to her office by universities and public colleges have revealed that a shocking 47 students were raped last year, writes Bongani Nkosi for The Star.
More than 40 university bosses in the United Kingdom have written to the education secretary calling for so-called essay mill companies to be banned. Some students pay for bespoke, original assignments – which cannot easily be detected by anti-plagiarism software, writes Katherine Smith for the BBC News.
Hong Kong should be embarrassed by the findings of too few women in academic research and senior management. This can change with an effort to promote an interest in research and open the top jobs to capable women candidates, writes Katherine Forestier for the South China Morning Post.
Libraries from all around the world are unbundling their subscriptions to the full suite of publishers’ journals in an effort to curb costs. This trend, known as ‘trimming the fat’, is extremely damaging to research and innovation, writes Manuel Martin for ZME Science.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC, which funds much of the nation's biomedical research, has launched a ‘comprehensive review’ of human foetal tissue research, to ensure that it’s complying with laws and regulations, writes Meredith Wadman for Science Magazine.
The Council of Common Interests in Pakistan has directed the Higher Education Commission to finalise its recommendations in coordination with the federal and provincial governments within a month for a uniform higher education system across the country, reports Pakistan Today.
A subsidised higher education system by the government with South Africa’s current economic growth is not sustainable. This is according to University of the Free State Vice-Chancellor Professor Francis Petersen, writes Zodidi Dano for the Cape Argus.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
When Professor John Warren left Wales to take up his new academic role two years ago in Papua New Guinea he believed he had found the job of his dreams. The exotic country, nestling in the south-western Pacific Ocean just north of Australia, seemed the idyllic location. But, as the new vice-chancellor of the country’s University of Natural Resources and Environment, he discovered the perils of trying to rid the institution of cheating, writes Camilla Turner for The Telegraph.
The Tanzania Commission for Universities has ordered the closure of two university colleges and suspended enrolment in 12 others in the coming academic year, citing lapses in quality. The commission’s Executive Secretary Professor Charles Kihampa said that the decision was taken after an audit of the institutions, writes Florian Kaijage for The East African.
The Australian Labor party has promised a AU$300 million (US$217 million) fund to pay for university research facilities, including laboratories and other infrastructure, and has accused the Coalition government of failing to fund capital projects, writes Paul Karp for The Guardian.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded US$31 million for fundamental quantum research that will enable the United States to lead a new quantum technology revolution. The awards were announced as NSF joins other federal agencies and private partners at a White House summit on quantum information science, reports the National Science Foundation.
Taiwan’s leading universities are stepping up research efforts and drawing up regulations as the ministry of education prepares to propose an amendment that would allow them to launch start-ups to manage research products, writes Wu Po-hsuan for the Taipei Times.
When asked what they’re doing to foster tech start-ups, European governments often point to their efforts at supporting local universities. Sadly, they rarely end up with tech giants of their own, writes Nicolas Colin for Forbes.
The biannual appraisal of African economies conducted by the World Bank observes that while Sub-Saharan Africa boasts the youngest population in the world and its associated positives, there are several hurdles in the way of this economic prospect. Chief among these hurdles are the damning skill levels of Africa’s workforce, the lowest in the world as per the report, writes Eden Kironde for The New Times.
Two Scottish universities have launched a new initiative aimed at training 100,000 people in data skills, through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. With Scotland forecast to require around 13,000 extra workers each year with data skills, the £661 million (US$861 million) Data-Driven Innovation initiative, launched by Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities, will aim to transform Edinburgh and the surrounding area into the ‘data capital of Europe’, writes Liam Kirkaldy for Holyrood.