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Reforming Chinese academic evaluation:Three focal points for academic journals and six steps to enhance academic evaluation

By Wang Xingguo | 2013-09-02
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
Reaching international prominence and reforming the academic evaluation system are two separate yet closely related issues for academic publications. A preeminent academic journal must have a firm basis in three criteria.
Three focal points
An academic journal must establish both domain and its spirit. This is to say, it must simultaneously carve out a unique niche and viewpoint while also cultivating itself as a vehicle of knowledge.
Academic journals should also strive to highlight the broader academic spirit and current trends in the field. Academic spirit embodies a twofold motivation, encompassing both the spirit of inquiry and the drive to publish. Knowledge is specialized, theoretical, systemic and logical. As knowledge is constantly developing and unceasing, the academic spirit is nothing but the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. Since a journal is finite in content, the articles that appear in the journals must be the most enlightening of the submissions. Contemporaneously, as each age is characterized by its own trends that are reflected in the overall direction of inquiry and investigation during a particular time, the articles published in an academic journal should be the epitome of these period-defining interests.
Diversification of content and form is also crucial for an academic journal. To begin with, the format of a journal’s articles should vary from the lengthier submissions filled with rich, detailed argumentation, to shorter essays that are more rhetorical in emphasis. In addition, it is advisable that a journal could have a variety of languages, either both Chinese and foreign languages or perhaps even ethnic languages as well.
Suggestions for academic evaluation system
Compared with the academic evaluation system in natural sciences, there are more controversial issues in the evaluation system for the humanities and social sciences. In order to build a more reasonable system, we need to focus on six aspects:
· We must strengthen the mechanisms of academic criticism and supervision in order to curb academic corruption. This is a task incumbent upon all academic journals to fulfill.
· Academic evaluation should promote works that stand the test of time. For example, Feng Youlan’s Xin Lixue (New Rational Philosophy) won first place in the National Scholarly Publishing Awards in the humanities in the 1940s; today, the book still has academic influence and is even considered a model of innovation in modern Chinese philosophy. Academic evaluation today should maintain commitment to discovering tomorrow’s seminal treatises.
· We should give balanced and consistent evaluation to the journals both inside and outside of the system, as well as those published domestically and those published overseas.
· Both short-term and long-term academic evaluation should be emphasized; merit should not only be accorded to articles which are cited and reprinted in the short term, but those that come to have far-reaching influence in spite of going unnoticed during the time of their initial publication. For instance, Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance came to light many years after it was first published in an unremarkable mimeographed journal printed in a monastery.
· A specially tailored evaluation system should be built for academic research and achievements in certain disciplines such as philology and classical studies. Since they are limited to relatively narrow academic fields, if broader general standards are applied to them such as the extent to which they are cited and reprinted, research and development in those disciplines might be hampered.
· A reward should be established for academic accomplishments in the humanities and social sciences; it could run on a term varying from one to three decades, or even four to five decades. The reward purse should also be increased so as to approach the prizes in natural sciences.
Without awareness of the steps necessary to enhance a journal’s international preeminence, we will not be doing all we can for the construction of humanities and social sciences and the establishment of a reasonable and fair evaluation system.   
Wang Xingguo is Executive Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Shenzhen University (Humanities and Social Sciences).
The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today. No.373, Oct.31,2012.
(Translated by Jiang Hong)