1. bookVolume 7 (2022): Edition 3 (August 2022)
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Bibliometrics Is Valuable Science. Why Do Some Journals Seem to Oppose It?

Publié en ligne: 22 Apr 2022
Volume & Edition: Volume 7 (2022) - Edition 3 (August 2022)
Pages: 1 - 4
Reçu: 24 Mar 2022
Accepté: 06 Apr 2022
Détails du magazine
License
Format
Magazine
eISSN
2543-683X
Première parution
30 Mar 2017
Périodicité
4 fois par an
Langues
Anglais

Of all forms of research that can be accepted as valuable investigations, bibliometrics is often thought to be one of the most accessible to the widest number of researchers. Qualitative methods like interviewing and ethnography require extensive training, time, and often need ethical approval. Even basic quantitative methods like using questionnaires require significant drafting, mastery of language, and ethical review. Bibliometrics, being based on the analysis of publicly-available bibliographic data, does not have these requirements. Unlike with these other research approaches, where the top software (e.g., SPSS, NVIVO) are expensive for researchers to afford, many of the top software for bibliometrics (e.g., CiteSpace, VosViewer) are free. The absence of these barriers invites researchers with more diverse backgrounds to participate. For these reasons, bibliometrics is rather popular in countries from the Global South, such as India and Iran.

However, many scholarly journals dismiss bibliometric articles, not on the articles’ merits but rather due to the approach used. Some of the journals claim they do not accept bibliometric articles because there are other journals dedicated to the topic. While this is technically true, it is also misleading. Journals like Scientometrics are primarily dedicated to the publication of bibliometrics innovations, not bibliometric studies of a specific topic. Saying that a journal like Scientometrics is the place where all bibliometric studies should be published is like saying the journal Innovations in Ethnographic Research is the only place where ethnographic studies of any subject should be published. Bibliometrics is simply the quantitative study of bibliographic data. The “focus” of that study is limitless in terms of subject matter.

I think what is more likely at play with journals rejecting bibliometric studies out of hand relates to the fact that these studies are popular among researchers from the Global South. Bibliometrics is popular in many countries where English is an official language but is not commonly spoken at home (such as former colonized nations where English remains a language for education and government affairs). Greater work may be needed on the part of the editor to support the researcher whose language proficiency is not on par with the native speaker from the Global North, countries like the United States and United Kingdom. Additionally, the population of Global South is nearly three times as large as the population of the Global North. So, by accepting bibliometric studies, a journal may see itself as inviting a deluge of manuscripts that require greater scrutiny and work than the average manuscript the editor hopes to receive. It is easier, from the perspective of the editor, to say “we do not want any of this type of article,” than to say what may really be the truth: we do not have the time or patience to sort through a deluge of submissions that may have varying levels of writing proficiency. These factors, however, should be of no concern to a journal that is truly dedicated to increasing global representation in science.

Often, the perception and treatment of bibliometric studies may suggest an attempt to enforce (intentional or not) of Western hegemony—that editors and editorial boards, which are overwhelmingly represented by researchers from the United States and United Kingdom, want to define what “research” is, with no consideration of alternative perspectives from researchers outside of these nations. Because virtually all of the top academic journals are published in the West, in order to develop a name for oneself in science, researchers must conform to the Western conception of “research.” This, in effect, stunts creativity, innovation, and opportunity. As impactful as the work of poststructuralists like Foucault were accused of being among academia during the late 20th century, the greatest implications for reorganizing the scientific community have largely been swept under the rug, as top journals continue to make value judgements of manuscripts on the basis of superficial elements like the particular method selected or easy-to-correct language errors, rather than the quality or importance of the content itself.

This is not to say that there are not many bibliometric studies that are of poor quality. As with any research approach, if any element of the topic selection or analysis is problematic then the quality of manuscript suffers. Bibliometric studies also need to focus on relevant information for researchers in the subject area they cover (e.g., a study on hematology research needs to be performed by a researcher with actual knowledge of hematology research). These studies also need to be submitted to journals that are relevant to their subject (e.g., a hematology journal, not a library science journal). However, there are far too many valuable articles that end up being published in a journal of lower visibility than is warranted. Academia is a better and more innovative when the merits of a work are considered instead of the work's choice of methods or superficial elements of writing.

Academic journals that wish to broaden their international scope by accepting more bibliometric studies may consider some of the following approaches in order to encourage submissions while maintaining quality:

Acknowledge bibliometric analysis as a valid research approach.

Certainly, the first step a journal must take is to acknowledge the value of bibliometrics submissions. Journals may specify what kinds of bibliometric submissions are appropriate and use these criteria to quickly evaluate manuscripts upon initial submission. For instance, a criterion such as “the study must include discussion of the practical value of the study for researchers in this field” may be used to justify rejection (or revise and resubmit) decisions on articles that are merely superficial in their description. In lieu of the institutional ethical review that is performed for human subjects studies, where the researchers must justify the need and parameters of the study to a panel of external reviewers, journals might require a statement from bibliometricians that justifies the need and parameters for their studies. These are a few sensible suggestions to guide the quality assurance process so that a large number of low quality bibliometric studies are not submitted or proceed to peer review.

Elevate superlative examples.

If there are elements of some bibliometric studies that you do not like (i.e., lack of a section that clearly highlights the significance of the findings), then highlight examples that you believe do things correctly. Simply rejecting manuscripts or saying “we do not publish that kind of paper” does nothing to help the author to improve their work.

If unwilling to give all bibliometric studies a full review, then develop an editorial policy that outlines procedures for these studies.

Bibliometric studies typically have a clear focus (and if they do not, they are probably not ready for publication). It is possible to use the topic to determine relevance relatively quickly. If the subject of a journal is hematology and a manuscript is submitted that focuses on a neurosurgery technique, then it should not take more than a few seconds to reject and little explanation is necessary (“not relevant”). If the study pertains to a certain blood disorder and is written well enough that it could be brought up to publishable form, then the manuscript deserves a review.

Consider adding to the diversity of the editorial board/reviewer pool to include experts in bibliometric approaches.

Just as journals aim to diversify their editorial boards to ensure that the expertise of members covers a wide range of topics, they should also aim to ensure that a wide range of methodological approaches are covered. Recruiting editorial board members with an expertise in bibliometrics, in addition to the subject area of the journal, should be a priority for journals that would like to increase representation of these types of articles. The idea of having a methodological expert to review certain manuscripts is not uncommon. Many journals in certain disciplines (especially in the social sciences) have a statistics expert to review manuscripts that have a significant quantitative component.

This paper presents just a few possible reasons why journals may have traditionally shied away from considering bibliometric studies and discusses some ways in which these journals may adapt their policy and procedures to be more inviting to bibliometricians. In adopting these practices, journals also may increase the opportunity for a more geographically-diverse group of researchers to publish and, consequently, support the career advancement of early-career researchers and researchers from the Global South. This enhanced relationship is beneficial both for publishers and researchers in the effort to expand readership, submissions, and the creation of new knowledge.

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