Regional content expansion in Web of Science®: opening borders to exploration

jim-testaEditor’s note: this guest entry was written by James Testa, Senior Director, Editorial Development & Publisher Relations, Thomson Reuters. It was originally published on an internal Thomson Reuters website. James Testa (pictured to the left) joined Thomson Reuters (then ISI) in 1983. From 1983 through 1996 he managed the Publisher Relations Department and was directly responsible for building and maintaining working relations with the over three thousand international scholarly publishers whose journals are indexed by Thomson Reuters.  In 1996 Mr. Testa was appointed the Director of Editorial Development. In this position he directed a staff of information professionals in the evaluation and selection of journals and other publication formats for coverage in the various Thomson Reuters products. In 2007 he was named Senior Director, Editorial Development & Publisher Relations.  In this combined role he continues to build content for Thomson Reuters products and work to increase efficiency in communication with the international STM publishing community. He is a member of the American Society of Information Science and Technology (ASIST) and has spoken frequently on behalf of Thomson Reuters in the Asia Pacific region, South America, and Europe.

Our thanks also go to Susan Besaw of Thomson Reuters for facilitating access to the essay. This guest entry ties in to one of our earlier entries on this topic (‘Thomson Reuters, China, and ‘regional’ journals: of gifts and knowledge production’), as well as a fascinating new entry (‘The Canadian Center of Science and Education and Academic Nationalism’) posted on the consistently excellent Scott Sommers’ Taiwan Blog.

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thomsonreuterslogoThomson Reuters extends the power of its Journal Selection Process by focusing on the world’s best regional journals. The goal of this initiative is to enrich the collection of important and influential international journals now covered in Web of Science with a number of superbly produced journals whose content is of specific regional importance.

Since its inception nearly fifty years ago by Eugene Garfield, PhD, the primary goal of the Journal Selection Process has been to identify those journals which formed the core literature of the sciences, social sciences, and arts & humanities. These journals publish the bulk of scholarly research, receive the most citations from the surrounding literature, and have the highest citation impact of all journals published today. The journals selected for the Web of Science are, in essence, the scholarly publications that meet the broadest research needs of the international community of researchers. They have been selected on the basis of their high publishing standards, their editorial content, the international diversity of their contributing authors and editorial board members, and on their relative citation frequency and impact. International journals selected for the Web of Science define the very highest standards in the world of scholarly publishing.

In recent years, however, the user community of the Web of Science has expanded gradually from what was once a concentration of major universities and research facilities in the United States and Western Europe to an internationally diverse group including virtually all major universities and research centers in every region of the world. Where once the Thomson Reuters sales force was concentrated in Philadelphia and London, local staff are now committed to the service of customers at offices in Japan, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Taiwan, India, and South Korea.

webofknowledgeAs the global distribution of Web of Science expands into virtually every region on earth, the importance of regional scholarship to our emerging regional user community also grows. Our approach to regional scholarship effectively extends the scope of the Thomson Reuters Journal Selection Process beyond the collection of the great international journal literature: it now moves into the realm of the regional journal literature. Its renewed purpose is to identify, evaluate, and select those scholarly journals that target a regional rather than an international audience. Bringing the best of these regional titles into the Web of Science will illuminate regional studies that would otherwise not have been visible to the broader international community of researchers.

In the Fall of 2006, the Editorial Development Department of Thomson Reuters began this monumental task. Under the direction of Maureen Handel, Manager of Journal Selection, the team of subject editors compiled a list of over 10,000 scholarly publications representing all areas of science, social science, the arts, and humanities. Over the next twelve months the team was able to select 700 regional journals for coverage in the Web of Science.

The Web of Science Regional Journal Profile

These regional journals are typically published outside the US or UK. Their content often centers on topics of regional interest or that are presented with a regional perspective. Authors may be largely from the region rather than an internationally diverse group. Bibliographic information is in English with the exception of some arts and humanities publications that are by definition in native language (e.g. literature studies). Cited references must be in the Roman alphabet. All journals selected are publishing on time and are formally peer reviewed. Citation analysis may be applied but the real importance of the regional journal is measured by the specificity of its content rather than its citation impact.

Subject Areas and Their Characteristics

These first 700 journals selected in 2007 included 161 Social Science titles, 148 Clinical Medicine titles, 108 Agriculture/Biology/Environmental Science titles, 95 Physics/Chemistry/Earth Science titles, 89 Engineering/Computing/Technology titles, 61 Arts/Humanities titles, and 38 Life Sciences titles. The editors’ exploration of each subject area surfaced hidden treasure.

Social Sciences:
The European Union and Asia Pacific regions yielded over 140 social science titles. Subject areas such as business, economics, management, and education have been enriched with regional coverage. Several fine law journals have been selected and will provide balance in an area normally dominated by US journals. Because of the characteristically regional nature of many studies in the social sciences, this area will provide a rich source of coverage that would otherwise not be available to the broader international community.

Clinical Medicine:
Several regional journals dealing with General Medicine, Cardiology, and Orthopedics have been selected. Latin America, Asia Pacific, and European Union are all well represented here. Research in Surgery is a growing area in regional journals. Robotic and other novel surgical technology is no longer limited to the developed nations but now originates in China and India as well and has potential use internationally.

The spread of diseases such as bird flu and SARS eastward and westward from Southeast Asia is a high interest topic regionally and internationally. In some cases host countries develop defensive practices and, if enough time elapses, vaccines. Regional studies on these critical subjects will now be available in Web of Science.

Agriculture/Biology/Environmental Sciences:
Many of the selected regional titles in this area include new or endemic taxa of interest globally. Likewise regional agriculture or environmental issues are now known to result in global consequences. Many titles are devoted to niche topics such as polar/tundra environment issues, or tropical agronomy. Desertification has heightened the value of literature from central Asian countries. Iranian journals report voluminously on the use of native, desert tolerant plants and animals that may soon be in demand by desertification threatened countries.

Physics/Chemistry/Earth Sciences:
Regional journals focused on various aspects of Earth Science are now available in Web of Science. These include titles focused on geology, geography, oceanography, meteorology, climatology, paleontology, remote sensing, and geomorphology. Again, the inherently regional nature of these studies provides a unique view of the subject and brings forward studies heretofore hidden.

Engineering/Computing/Technology:
Engineering is a subject of global interest. Regional Journals in this area typically present subject matter as researched by regional authors for their local audience. Civil and Mechanical Engineering studies are well represented, providing solutions to engineering problems arising from local geological, social, environmental, climatological, or economic factors.

Arts & Humanities:
The already deep coverage of Arts & Humanities in Web of Science is now enhanced by additional regional publications focused on such subjects as History, Linguistics, Archaeology, and Religion. Journals from countries in the European Union, Latin American, Africa, and Asia Pacific regions are included.

Life Sciences:
Life Sciences subject areas lending themselves to regional studies include parasitology, micro-biology, and pharmacology. A specific example of valuable regional activity is stem cell research. The illegality of stem cell studies in an increasing number of developed countries has moved the research to various Asian countries where it is of great interest inside and outside of the region.

Conclusion

The primary mission of the Journal Selection Process is to identify, evaluate and select the top tier international and regional journals for coverage in the Web of Science. These are the journals that have the greatest potential to advance research on a given topic. In the pursuit of this goal Thomson Reuters has partnered with many publishers and societies worldwide in the development of their publications. As an important by-product of the steady application of the Journal Selection Process, Thomson Reuters is actively involved in raising the level of research communication as presented in journals. The objective standards described in the Journal Selection Process will now be focused directly on a new and expansive body of literature. Our hope, therefore, is not only to enrich the editorial content of Web of Science, but also to expand relations with the world’s primary publishers in the achievement of our mutual goal: more effective communication of scientific results to the communities we serve.

James Testa

Author’s note: This essay was compiled by James Testa, Senior Director, Editorial Development & Publisher Relations. Special thanks to Editorial Development staff members Maureen Handel, Mariana Boletta, Rodney Chonka, Lauren Gala, Anne Marie Hinds, Katherine Junkins-Baumgartner, Chang Liu, Kathleen Michael, Luisa Rojo, and, Nancy Thornton for their critical reading and comments.

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 WordPress.com blogging platform and the Chinese government is blanket censoring all WordPress.com blogs. So much for knowledge sharing!

Citation indices, bibliometrics, and audit culture: new research findings

uukbiblio.jpgThe use of citation indices (bibliometrics, more broadly, which includes article counting and citation counts) is sweeping much of the world of higher education governance. Citation indices, including the Thomson Scientific produced Social Science Citation Index, and the Science Citation Index, and even Google Scholar, are undeniably part of modern academic life, though they are highly contested, reflective and disproportionately supportive of the Anglo-American world (including English as lingua franca), and little understood. Like rankings schemes (which witnessed a flurry of activity this week: see the Times Higher Education Supplement global ranking results, Beerkens’ Blog on the geographies of the new THES rankings, and the Macleans results at a Canadian scale), bibliometrics are used to analyze scholarly activity, and frame the distribution of resources (from the individual up to the institutional scale). They are increasingly used to govern academic life, for good and for bad, and they produce a myriad of impacts that need to be much more fully explored.

The UK makes particularly heavy use of bibliometrics, spurred on by their Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). For this reason UK higher education institutions should, therefore (one would hope!), have a more advanced understanding of the uses and abuses of this analytical cum governance tool. It is thus worth noting that Universities UK (UUK) released a new report today on the topic – The use of bibliometrics to measure research quality in UK higher education institutions – to generate discussion about how to reform the much maligned RAE process. The report was produced Evidence Ltd., a UK “knowledge-based company specializing in data analysis, reports and consultancy focusing on the international research base”. jadams.jpg

Evidence is led by Jonathan Adams, pictured here at a Worldwide Universities Network conference, and the person who wrote an illuminating chapter in the Rand Corporation report (Perspectives on U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology) we recently profiled.

Evidence also has a “strategic alliance” with Thomson Scientific (previously known as Thomson ISI) that produces the citation indices noted above.

As the UUK press release notes:

The report assesses the use of bibliometrics in both STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and non-STEM subjects, and the differences in citation behaviour among subject disciplines.

Professor Eric Thomas, chair of Universities UK’s Research Policy Committee, said: “It is widely anticipated that bibliometrics will be central to the new system, but we need to ensure it is technically correct and able to inspire confidence among the research community.

The report highlights that:

  • Bibliometrics are probably the most useful of a number of variables that could feasibly be used to measure research performance.
  • There is evidence that bibliometric indices do correlate with other, quasi-independent measures of research quality – such as RAE grades – across a range of fields in science and engineering.
  • There is a range of bibliometric variables as possible quality indicators. There are strong arguments against the use of (i) output volume (ii) citation volume (iii) journal impact and (iv) frequency of uncited papers.
  • ‘Citations per paper’ is a widely accepted index in international evaluation. Highly-cited papers are recognised as identifying exceptional research activity.
  • Accuracy and appropriateness of citation counts are a critical factor.
  • There are differences in citation behaviour among STEM and non-STEM as well as different subject disciplines.
  • Metrics do not take into account contextual information about individuals, which may be relevant. They also do not always take into account research from across a number of disciplines.
  • The definition of the broad subject groups and the assignment of staff and activity to them will need careful consideration.
  • Bibliometric indicators will need to be linked to other metrics on research funding and on research postgraduate training.
  • There are potential behavioural effects of using bibliometrics which may not be picked up for some years
  • There are data limitations where researchers’ outputs are not comprehensively catalogued in bibliometrics databases.

See here for one early reaction from the Guardian‘s Donald Macleod. This report, and subsequent reactions, are more food for fodder in ongoing debates about the global higher ed audit culture that is emerging, like it or not…

Kris Olds