“Given the contemporary research culture, indices seem to have become a serious menace in Pakistan and other Third World countries as these indices are no longer just supposed measures for quality of research but have started influencing important decision making and benefiting the people in academia with bureaucratic and influential positions.”
This was stated by renowned mathematician Prof. Dr. Asghar Qadir (HI) while addressing a seminar “Evaluation of Research” at Quid-i-Azam University (QAU). The seminar was organized by the Special Coordination Committee on 50 Years of QAU (1967-2017) as part of the 50th year celebrations of the university.
He said that for the last twenty years or so there has been increasing emphasis on using numerical indicators for gauging academic excellence to evaluate countries, universities, professional journals, and even individual scientists. Initially these indicators seemed innocuous or even marginally useful but to be used cautiously.
“The choice of the indices and the criteria for calculating them are arbitrary but the numerical values seem to lend them a misleading validity. Since they are very convenient for administrators to defend promotion decisions etc., they have come into increasing use. In Pakistan the International Scientific Indexing (ISI) and Impact Factor (IF) have entered into the policies, for fresh appointment, promotion, awards and evaluation of research projects. On the basis of the indices universities, research institutes, departments and individuals are ranked. Similar comments apply across the Third World” he added.
He further explained the use of these indicators in the First World and said that hundreds of applicants short listed with the help of these indices and then final selection is usually done after peer review and interviews. Compare this with their use in the Third World, where final decisions on the appointment of even Professors, or of decisions for giving awards, are made on the basis of the IF, which is calculated on the basis of impact factor citations of the journal for the year in which the paper was published.
He said the problem has become worse as the universities now are requiring their faculty to publish in such a way as to enhance their ranking. “Of course, this will crush the spirit of free enquiry and select for the most unethical members who manage to publish trash or a scientist who may be one of some hundreds of authors collectively publishing many papers in good journals” said Professor Dr. Asghar Qadir. He further described that publications have become a means to a different end; instead of being a means of sharing one’s findings with other workers in the field so that further progress of understanding can be achieved, they have become a means of career advancement. He stressed that Higher Education Commission (HEC) and other responsible bodies should come forward to introduce a mechanism that would help to develop and flourish good science in the country. Besides a large number of students, the Vice Chancellor Quaid-i-Azam University Dr. Javed Ashraf and senior faculty members attended the seminar.