Russia ‘moving backwards’ on social science citations

THE data show that Russia’s research influence in social sciences is waning, while other nations are failing to progress

October 17, 2018
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Several major higher education nations have stalled on citation impact in the social sciences, while universities in Russia are moving backwards on this measure, according to Times Higher Education data.

It is well known that social science and humanities research typically receives much lower citation counts than research in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but THE’s latest social science subject ranking, published on 17 October, reveals that universities in many countries are failing to make significant progress in this area, and that some are even regressing.

An analysis of the distribution of universities in the subject table over the past three years, according to their citation impact and research reputation scores, shows that Russia’s institutions have declined in terms of research influence.

The average citation impact score for Russia’s top four social science institutions was 56.7 in 2017, but that dropped to 42.6 this year. Despite this, the country’s median research reputation score rose slightly, from 20.2 to 21.6 during this period.

The findings follow a THE analysis last month of figures from Elsevier’s Scopus database, which revealed that that the share of Russian publications that involved co-authorship with academics based outside the country fell between 2013 and 2017. Experts blamed the decline on political tensions between Russia and the West.

There may well be a link between Russia’s decline in social sciences and its increasing insularity, as there is a significant correlation between universities’ research influence (citation impact) and their levels of international research collaboration.

Elsewhere, universities in Australia and the UK have a stable citation impact score, but their research reputation has declined.

China, a country that overall recorded a boost in its citation impact in the THE World University Rankings 2019, has also stalled on this measure in the social sciences, reflecting Chinese institutions’ focus on STEM subjects. However, when looking at individual institutions’ scores, its two leading universities, Tsinghua and Peking, have improved on this metric.

Even the most elite universities in the ranking are slipping in terms of research impact. The average citation impact score of the top 100 universities in the 2019 social science table was 82.3, compared with 85 in 2017.

The average publication output score for these institutions declined even more significantly, from 78.3 in 2017 to 67.5 in 2019.

THE also released new rankings for business and economics, education and law on 17 October.

The four subject rankings are based on the same range of 13 performance indicators used in the overall World University Rankings 2019, but the methodology is recalibrated for each subject to suit the individual fields.

This year, THE has made a small adjustment to the eligibility criterion for academic staff in the subject tables.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Interesting observations. It is necessary to tell that a problem of low quoting, and the effectiveness most important in researches depend on several factors. The first factor is plagiarism. The second factor is an incompetence, etc. It is possible to list long. However, it seems to me that not everything so is bad in respect of regress. The statistics considers only the dry facts and transfers everything to figures. Besides figures there is a contents

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