Interview with Professor Lin Zhang

When Lin Zhang returned to China after several years of bibliometric research work at KU Leuven, Belgium, she found that impact factor fever continued to grip Chinese researchers and decision makers, despite several government policy documents aimed at promoting publication in diverse journals. This is really a hot topic in China today , she says. I believe the obsession with impact factors will change, particularly given the government’s efforts to change the situation. But it will take time.

Zhang and her nationwide network of young Chinese colleagues actually found that China welcomed their efforts to prompt more equitable ways of evaluating research by facilitating conversation among such institutions as the Chinese Academy of Science, the Chinese Academy of Social Science, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Zhang also collaborated with Gunnar Sivertsen in his efforts to establish common ground between policy makers and researchers, and was a coauthor with him on publications such as Science deserves to be judged on its contents, not its wrapping: Revisiting Seglen’s work on journal impact and research evaluation and Measuring scientific contributions with modified fractional counting .

Now, Zhang anticipates that the collective expertise and influence of the ICSR Advisory Board will hasten the development of solutions to what she views as some of the key challenges for research evaluation today: understanding that different criteria should be used for different purposes – i.e., formative evaluation (to help and improve) versus summative evaluation (to judge); differentiating among types of research – e.g., basic, technology-based, applied, social science and humanities; aggregating differently for early-stage versus more established researchers; supporting diversity in both local/national and international research systems; and, in an era of big data, fostering the proper interpretation and communication of data-driven results – e.g., association versus causality.

ICSR could help meet these challenges, she urges, through broadening research evaluations to include multilingual works that are necessary to prompt societal impact, particularly in the social sciences and humanities; advocating for more integrated data sources that reflect the various ways researchers contribute to science – e.g., through publications, inventions, education, and advising governments; supporting both high-profile researchers and those whose research may not receive widespread acclaim, but who work diligently day in and day out; facilitating studies of the persons and organizations behind author names (“contextualized scientometrics”) through support for the use of international standard identifiers for individuals and institutions; and exploring new metrics and indicators that accurately reflect teamwork and collaboration in science.

Importantly, I hope the ICSR can facilitate communication among different parties in the evaluation system, and serve as a bridge between different countries and research cultures , Zhang says. I believe many of our Chinese researchers share my enthusiasm, and are eager to share their experiences and expertise with global colleagues.

portrait-photo-of-prof-Lin Zhang | Elsevier

Lin Zhang is a Professor in the School of Information Management at Wuhan University, Hubei, China. She earned her doctoral degree in Science of Science and Management of S&T at Dalian University of Technology in 2010.