Thomson Reuters, China, and ‘regional’ journals: of gifts and knowledge production

Numerous funding councils, academics, multilateral organizations, media outlets, and firms, are exhibiting enhanced interest in the evolution of the Chinese higher education system, including its role as a site and space of knowledge production. See these three recent contributions, for example:

It is thus noteworthy that the “Scientific business of Thomson Reuters” (as they are now known) has been seeking to position itself as a key analyst of the changing contribution of China-based scholars to the global research landscape. As anyone who has worked in Asia knows, the power of bibliometrics is immense, and quickly becoming more so, within the relevant governance systems that operate across the region. The strategists at Scientific clearly have their eye on the horizon, and are laying the foundations for a key presence in future of deliberations about the production of knowledge in and on China (and the Asia-Pacific more generally).

Thomson and the gift economy

One of the mechanisms to establish a presence and effect is the production of knowledge about knowledge (in this case patents and ISI Web of Science citable articles), as well as gifts. On the gift economy front, yesterday marked the establishment of the first ‘Thomson Reuters Research Fronts Award 2008’, which was jointly sponsored Thomson Reuters and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) “Research Front Analysis Center”, National Science Library. The awards ceremony was held in the sumptuous setting of the Hotel Nikko New Century Beijing.

As the Thomson Reuters press release notes:

This accolade is awarded to prominent scientific papers and their corresponding authors in recognition of their outstanding pioneering research and influential contribution to international research and development (R&D). The event was attended by over 150 of the winners’ industry peers from leading research institutions, universities and libraries.

The award is significant to China’s science community as it accords global recognition to their collaborative research work undertaken across all disciplines and institutions and highlights their contribution to groundbreaking research that has made China one of the world’s leading countries for the influence of its scientific papers. According to the citation analysis based on data from Scientific’s Web of Science, China is ranked second in the world by number of scientific papers published in 2007. [my emphasis]

Thomson incorporates ‘regional’ journals into the Web of Science

It was also interesting to receive news two days ago that the Scientific business of Thomson Reuters has just added “700 new regional journals” to the ISI Web of Science, journals that “typically target a regional rather than international audience by approaching subjects from a local perspective or focusing on particular topics of regional interest”. The breakdown of newly included journals is below, and was kindly sent to me by Thomson Reuters:

Scientific only admits journals that meet international standard publishing practices, and include notable elements of English so as to enable the data base development process, as noted here:

All journals added to the Web of Science go through a rigorous selection process. To meet stringent criteria for selection, regional journals must be published on time, have English-language bibliographic information (title, abstract, keywords), and cited references must be in the Roman alphabet.

In a general sense, this is a positive development; one that many regionally-focused scholars have been crying out for for years. There are inevitably some issues being grappled with about just which ‘regional’ journals are included, the implications for authors and publishers to include English-language bibliographic information (not cheap on a mass basis), and whether it really matters in the end to a globalizing higher education system that seems to be fixated on international refereed (IR) journal outlets. Still, this is progress of a notable type.

Intellectual Property (IP) generation (2003-2007)

The horizon scanning Thomson Reuters is engaged in generates relevant information for many audiences. For example, see the two graphics below, which track 2003-2007 patent production rates and levels within select “priority countries”. The graphics are available in World IP Today by Thomson Reuters (2008). Click on them for a sensible (for the eye) size.

Noteworthy is the fact that:

China has almost doubled its volume of patents from 2003-2007 and will become a strong rival to Japan and the United States in years to come. Academia represents a key source of innovation in many countries. China has the largest proportion of academic innovation. This is strong evidence of the Chinese Government’s drive to strengthen its academic institutions

Thus we see China as a rapidly increasing producer of IP (in the form of patents), though in a system that is relatively more dependent upon its universities to act as a base for the production process. To be sure private and state-owned enterprises will become more significant over time in China (and Russia), but the relative importance of universities (versus firms or research-only agencies) in the knowledge production landscape is to be noted.

Through the production of such knowledge, technologies, and events, the Scientific business of Thomson Reuters seeks to function as the key global broker of knowledge about knowledge. Yet the role of this institution in providing and reshaping the architecture that shapes ever more scholars’ careers, and ever more higher education systems, is remarkably under-examined.

Kris Olds

ps: alas GlobalHigherEd is still being censored out in China as we use a blogging platform and the Chinese government is blanket censoring all blogs. So much for knowledge sharing!

‘Unlocking talent’ to produce the ‘Innovation Nation’…a case of words, words, words, or…?

Last week, John Denham, Secretary for State for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), launched Innovation Nation (IN), a White Paper intended to boost competitiveness and productivity in the UK. Upbeat in style, lofty in ambition, and packed full of strategies, Innovation Nation promises to “unlock the talents of all of its people” to realize the 2007 Sainsbury Report’s challenge – to win the race to top.

The Government’s aim is the make the UK the leading place in the world to be an innovative business, third sector organization, or public service. We aim to build an Innovation Nation in which innovation thrives at all levels – individuals, communities, cities and regions – recognizing the distinctiveness of the four UK nations’ governance and responsibilities.

Innovation Nation is DIUS’s first major policy since it was established as a new department in 2007, following Gordon Brown’s accession to the top job of Prime Minister in the UK. It is also only one amongst a flurry of papers produced by the UK government and allied think-tanks over the past year or two aimed at giving strategic direction to the realisation of a globally competitive, service-based knowledge economy. innovation-nation-2.jpg

GlobalHigherEd has been tracking and commenting on these developments, for they give us an insight into how national governments, like the UK (for other examples, see Singapore, Malaysia, Australia), envision the nature of the global challenges, and how higher education sectors are being mobilized to realize this vision.

Nothing, it seems, is exempt from the government’s Innovation Nation agenda – whether it is in the supply of goods and services, or the demand for them (procurement, commissioned research). And, if the White Paper has its way, innovation (creativity, partnership, knowledge exchange) will be the only game in town.

The Innovation Nation White Paper aims to

  • give around 1000 firms an innovation voucher worth £ 3000 (US$6000) to engage in innovation activity;
  • establish new apprenticeships in the creative industries;
  • facilitate the development of an Innovation Index to be operational by 2010 to measure the UK’s performance as an Innovation Nation;
  • establish a new Innovation Research Centre on innovation knowledge;
  • boost government funding for research in line with the EU’s Lisbon objective of 3% of GDP;
  • encourage Regional Development Boards to capture and capitalize on the unique histories of their regions in ways that are economically productive; and
  • establish a number of new universities.

To realise this new creative economy imaginary, universities will be encouraged

  • to broaden their traditional knowledge bases, to include new disciplines;
  • participate in widening the knowledge exchange agenda in ways that bring the arts and humanities into dialogue with the creative industries;
  • participate in local “partnerships for innovation” with business and venture capitalists to develop local solutions to “local and regional challenges”;
  • make use of model Intellectual Property (IP) agreements to help streamline IP transactions;
  • participate in regionally based enterprise networks, and
  • promote greater take-up of science, technology and mathematics (STEM) studies.

Now the big question here is whether the White Paper will be more than ‘words, words, words’, and impinge upon and transform the current work of universities and their academics? The answer to this question, of course, cannot yet be known for sure. However we can have a pretty good idea of the challenges and the obstacles the government is facing. innovation-nation-3.jpg

Universities and their academics are likely to welcome the Report’s recognition of innovation as more than science and technology, and that new knowledge and inventions are typically not the consequence of one single individual. This wider view has the potential, then, to embrace the larger mandate of universities and the range of disciplines/knowledges it houses. It is thus capable of recognizing the value of transformations in wider systems and practices, and to also value them in the process.

However, despite gesturing at the importance of a wider view of innovation, the White Paper constantly veers in the direction of seeing the ‘value’ of innovation in narrow economic terms (for example, knowledge transfer to industry, partnership schemes with industry, creating higher education as an export industry, spin-out companies, patents, and so on). Academics are therefore right to ask: what about a university’s engagement with those other spheres of life–the cultural, political and social–that do not make a direct contribution to the economy, but which benefit societies in profoundly important ways? DIUS needs to be able to talk about value, not only in ‘use’ or ‘exchange’ terms but also in ways that signal it values those knowledges which generate questions about what it means to be human, how to create societies that are less precarious, how to generate the conditions for dignity, and so on.

Many academics are also likely to take issue with the very limited way in which DIUS intends to measure innovation within the academy – as citations in international journals (largely US, science based journals) which are also being used to generate rankings in League Tables (see our interview with Simon Marginson on this topic). This is a deeply problematic way of measuring and talking about innovation and creativity and one that is unlikely to unlock the talents of the academy for the economy. Why? Because these governance strategies do not encourage risk. Rather, they encourage more conservative and self-preserving strategies, rather than more creative knowledge-building activity.

The DIUS report makes a great deal of inter-disciplinarity to generate new knowledge (see also GlobalHigherEd‘s various contributions this this topic here and here). However, unless things radically change in universities, the current organization of university life tends to reinforce strict disciplinary boundaries rather than to weaken them. Take for instance the Research Assessment Exercises (RAEs) in the UK. Academics had to submit their publications to the relevant ‘discipline/field’ panels for judging. The lists of esteemed journals which would more likely generate a higher score also reinforced disciplinary boundaries and disciplinary parochialism. So, while the sentiment of the White Paper is laudable, to generate new knowledge through creatively working across disciplinary boundaries, there are other structures and processes that will need unpicking if we are to create the conditions for more multi/trans/post discipline-based work.

Finally, if DIUS is serious about advancing the “Unlocking Talent” agenda, it will need to: be sufficiently reflexive about the weaknesses in this White Paper; work out how to bring all academics with them; overhaul those structures and processes that impinge on current efforts to produce post disciplinary knowledges; and offer a genuinely wider view of innovation and creativity for society.

Susan Robertson

Thomson Innovation, UK Research Footprints®, and global audit culture

Thomson Scientific, the private firm fueling the bibliometrics drive in academia, is in the process of positioning itself as the anchor point for data on intellectual property (IP) and research. Following tantalizers in the form of free reports such as World IP Today: A Thomson Scientific Report on Global Patent Activity from 1997-2006 (from which the two images below are taken), Thomson Scientific is establishing, in phases, Thomson Innovation, which will provide, when completed:

  • Comprehensive prior art searching with the ability to search patents and scientific literature simultaneously
  • Expanded Asian patent coverage, including translations of Japanese full-text and additional editorially enhanced abstracts of Chinese data
  • A fully integrated searchable database combining Derwent World Patent Index® (DWPISM) with full-text patent data to provide the most comprehensive patent records available
  • Support of strategic intellectual property decisions through:
    • powerful analysis and visualization tools, such as charting, citation mapping and search result ranking
    • and, integration of business and news resources
  • Enhanced collaboration capabilities, including customizable folder structures that enable users to organize, annotate, search and share relevant files.



Speaking of bibliometrics, Evidence Ltd., the private firm that is shaping some of the debates about the post-Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) system of evaluating research quality and impact in UK universities, recently released the UK Higher Education Research Yearbook 2007. This £255 (for higher education customers) report:

[P]rovides the means to gain a rapid overview of the research strengths of any UK Higher Education institution, and compare its performance with that of its peers. It is an invaluable tool for those wishing to assess their own institution’s areas of relative strength and weakness, as well as versatile directory for those looking to invest in UK research. It will save research offices in any organisation with R&D links many months of work, allowing administrative and management staff the opportunity to focus on the strategic priorities that these data will help to inform….

It sets out in clear diagrams and summary tables the research profile for Universities and Colleges funded for research. Research Footprints® compare each institution’s performance to the average for its sector, allowing strengths and weaknesses to be rapidly identified by research managers and by industrial customers.

See below, for one example of how a sample university (in this case the University of Warwick) has its “Research Footprint®” graphically represented. This image is included in a brief article about Warwick by Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift, and is available on Warwick’s News & Events website.


sasquatch.jpgGiven the metrics that are utilized, it is clear, even if the data is not published, that individual researchers’ footprints will be available for systematic and comparative analysis, thereby enabling the governance of faculty with the back-up of ‘data’, and the targeted recruitment of the ‘big foot’ wherever s/he resides (though Sasquatches presumably need not apply!).

Kris Olds

OECD’s science, technology and industry scoreboard 2007

oecd.jpgEvery two years the OECD publishes a Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard. Yesterday it released its 2007 assessment of trends of the macroeconomic elements intended to stimulate innovation: knowledge, globalization, and their impacts on economic performance.

GlobalHigherEd has taken a look at the major findings of the report and highlights them below. These indicators of ‘innovation’ presumed to lead to ‘economic growth’ reveal a particular set of assumptions at work . For instance:

  • Investment in ‘knowledge’ (by which the OECD means software and education) has increased in most OECD countries.
  • Expenditure on R&D (as a % of GDP) in Japan (3.3%) and the EU (1.7%) picked up in 2005 following a drop in 2004. However, in the US expenditure in R&D declined slightly (to 2.6% in 2005 from 2.7% in 2001). China is the big feature story here, with spending on R&D growing even faster than its economy – by 18% per year over the period 2000-2005.
  • Countries like Switzerland, Belgium and English speaking countries (US, UK etc) have a large number of foreign doctoral students…with the US having the largest number. About 10,000 foreign citizens obtained a doctorate in S&E in the US in 2004/5 and represented 38% of S&E doctorates awarded.
  • Governments in OECD countries are putting into place policy levers to promote R&D – such as directing government funds to R&D through tax relief.
  • Universities are being encouraged to patent their innovations, and while the overall share of patents filed by universities has been relatively stable, this is increasing in selected OECD countries – France, Germany and Japan.
  • European companies (EU27) finance 6.4% of R&D performed by public institutions and universities compared to 2.7% in the US and 2% in Japan.
  • China now ranks 6th worldwide in their share of scientific publications and has raised its share of triadic patents from close to 0% in 1995 to 0.8% in 2005, though the US, Europe and Japan remain at the forefront. However, the US and the emerging economies (India, China, Israel, Singapore) focus upon high tech industries (computers, pharmaceuticals), whilst continental Europe focuses on medium technologies (automobiles, chemicals).
  • In all OECD countries inventive activities are more geographically concentrated – in an innovation cluster – as in Silicon Valley and Tokyo.
  • There has been a steady diffusion of ICT across all OECD countries – though take up if broadband in households varies, with Italy and Ireland showing only 10-15% penetration.
  • Across all OECD countries, use of the internet has become standard in businesses with over 10 employees.

These highlights from the Scoreboard reflects a number of things. First, it is a particular (and very narrow) way of looking at the basis for developing knowledge societies. Knowledge, as we can see above, is reduced to software and education to develop human capital.

Second, there is a particular way of framing science and technology and its relationship to development – as in larger levels of expenditure on R&D, rates of scientific publications, use of ICTs.

Third, it is assumed that the combination of inventions, patents and innovations will be the necessary boost to economic growth. However, this approach privileges intellectual property rights over and above other forms of invention and innovation which might contribute to the intellectual commons, as in open source software.

Finally, we should reflect on the purpose the Scoreboard. Not only is a country’s ‘progress’ (or ‘lack of’) then used by politicians and policymakers to argue for boosting investment and performance in particular areas of science and technology, as in recruiting more foreign students into graduate programs, or the development of incentives such as the promise of an EU Blue Card to ensure the brainpower stays in the country, but the Scorecard is a pedagogical tool. That is, a country ‘learns’ about itself in relation to other players in the global economy and is given a clear message about the overall direction it should head in if it wants to be a globally competitive knowledge-based economy.

Susan Robertson