Schools Training

The abuses of research evaluation

10 FEB 2014

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The famous Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities, in which French institutions have not covered themselves in glory, made quite an impact when it was launched on the media and academic world in 2003. Since then, the debates around the various rankings of higher education institutions have continued.

Last August the French minister of research commented on this annual ranking, noting that French universities were slowly climbing the ladder, according to France Info – without explaining what that really meant in academic terms.

Many articles have, however, pointed out the perverse effects of the race to head rankings whose scientific value is almost zero.

An investigation by the American journal Science, published on 9 December 2011, showed for example that universities in Saudi Arabia had contacted highly cited researchers who were employed by other institutions around the world asking them to add the address of their institution to publications in exchange for a substantial fee.

Dummy affiliations

Such dummy affiliations, with no real impact on teaching and research in universities, allow marginal institutions to boost their position in the rankings of universities without having to develop any real scientific activities!

The researchers involved are complicit in practices that are more than ethically dubious. Bad faith allows some to defend themselves by saying that these ‘associate professor’ titles have only a symbolic value and promote collaboration, but few are really dupes since it is clear they are paid for lending their name and fame to institutions with which they have no really serious link – like months of local teaching or in situ research activities.

Less well known, and certainly less well documented publicly, is that accreditation bodies and rankings of business and management schools generate the same kind of immoral practices.

For although we could understand – even if we may disagree – that an academic institution might believe that it is useful to offer ‘productivity’ premiums to its researchers who publish in journals considered ‘prestigious’ to improve their visibility in a globalised scientific field, it is difficult to defend the negotiation of (formal or informal) agreements with researchers from other institutions simply so they can add an address to their publications in exchange for money.


Read full article: University World News