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Friday, February 16, 2018

Russian science on the edge of the pit: where it will lead to bureaucratic decrees

Russian science is now on the edge of the pit.

And it’s not that many talented scientists have left the country — still much the same here. And not that funds for experimental and field research is not enough — there are still some scientific foundations in the country, and may collaborate with technically equipped foreign counterparts.

photo: Gennady Cherkasov

On the edge of the pit she was in when the reins of science fell out of the decrepit hands of bureaucratic Academy of Sciences and was intercepted by the Scientific Officials of the new formation — FANO (Federal Agency of scientific organizations). The main thing for them was to control the income and property of the former research establishments of the Academy. But it is time the Scientific Officials to report how far, “jumped” the science of the country under their rule. One of the criteria of research success is publication. And here the Officials give instructions to researchers: articles should be a lot of high quality and in top journals. Officials do not bother thinking that scientific publications, especially in the experimental Sciences, in one day do not appear — they are the result of long work of a team. And what about the rating of journals is also not all unique. But Officials forced scientists to blindly follow his orders about the production of scientific articles, urging the financial whip.

Decree No. 1: to publish articles in journals with high ratings — at least those included in international databases of journals. It is, in fact, forcing scientists to send the article either in the Central Russian journals, which in every scientific field we have a single number (and that on a global scale is still high formal rating do not possess), or in foreign journals. But thus the scientific process is deliberately excluded departmental scientific journals, collections of regional conferences, scientific proceedings of the universities, and many others, which were not included in the international database. There is no doubt that an article in a highly rated journal among the top authors is one of the major indicators of success of the scientist. But such a publication must be a result of long-term fundamental research and should contain a synthesis of the findings; such work every day are not done. And most importantly — it is worth Recalling what the rating of the journal: it is the so-called impact factor, which is not that other, as derived from the average annual number of citations of articles from this journal. If the magazine is aimed at a wide community of scientists, it is read by many and therefore the citation is wide, hence the high rating.

At the same time, there are magazines that publish the results of specific theoretical and applied research — the journals in important specific areas of expertise. They have lower formal rating for the simple reason that their audience is limited to specialists in this field of knowledge. But this does not mean that such “low-rating” the logs are good articles. Eat! Much! So there is no doubt that the article in these so called “low rating”, journals is also one of the indicators of success of the scientist. Such publications are important for fundamental and practical developments, and at the same time they create the ground for summarizing findings and scientific breakthroughs in specific areas of scientific knowledge. As an example: our team works on the ecology and genetics of salmonid fishes in the Far East, and many articles with the experimental data, we deliberately published in the far Eastern collections, the “last-place” (from the standpoint of Scientific Officials) journals appear in the local press and in regional meetings because they want to bring their applications and ideas to their colleagues working on the subject, and jointly with them to conduct further research. When the obtained experimental material allows to reveal some deep regularities, the article is sent to a Russian or foreign magazine, but not as an end in itself, and with the desire to bring the result to the court a wider scientific audience. Cut off from the scientific process journals and collections, called Scientific Officials “last-place” and do not fall for various reasons in the international database of publications, is to deliberately kill Russian science. If we want to preserve and develop science in Russia, it is necessary to equate all publications all scientific journals and publications, large and small, in the “center” and “periphery”.

Order No. 2: to evaluate the scientific validity of a scientist’s citation index and publications in “top-rated” journals. No doubt, the citation index tells about many things, but not everything. This is only one of the parties evaluation of the academic and by far not the full. I cited, but I strongly opposed such a miserable assessment of the activities of a researcher. The viability of the scientist — and the demand for his professional advice and feedback from experts in the field of knowledge, and inviting him to an informal study group, and personal invitations to reports, in student clubs, as well as lecturing, writing, journalism, and other scientific, educational and social activity. The viability of the scientist a dubious decrees is not defined.

Decree No. 3: to increase the number of publications by researcher, if you want to increase the allowances to the salary. The objective of the Scientific Officials ingenuous: having reported that “jumped” in the production of scientific products. And they absolutely don’t care that they are thus forced scientists to look for loopholes and to quickly produce a scientific paper and only the remaining time to write real scientific papers. On this subject much has been said and I can add only one thing: good articles can be just as much interesting and useful insights make the obtained data, and not top-down decrees.

It is impossible to adopt such decrees Scientific Officials, we must look where they are us — or, following the blind “leaders” will fall into the pit.

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