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Indigenous standards needed

By Wang Chunyan, Zhang Chunhai and Sun Wenjuan | 2013-09-02 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
To date, academic research in China has seen steady development. However, its evaluation system has failed to keep up.
 
Five problems with the current academic evaluation system
 
Undue favor of western citation indexes and evaluation systems: Recently, Chinese academic circles have been following citation indexes such as Science Citation Index (Science Citation Index), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and Engineering Information (EI) with increasing awe. Being published in a journal listed in one of these indexes is considered a true mark of scholarly distinction. Some Chinese universities have even unconditionally accepted foreign academic grading systems such as the UK’s League Tables without consideration of whether these criterion are really well suited to the objectives of Chinese academia. Unilateral importation of western evaluation systems spells a loss for the independence of Chinese academia.
 
Mere emphasis on quantity: Nothing is wrong with encouraging the scholars to get more published, but excessive emphasis on quantity over quality will have negative consequences.  Researchers and scholars may neglect efforts to improve the long term integrity of their field, instead focusing their energies exclusively on increasing short term productivity while ignoring the quality of their work.
 
Unfairness and cronyism: In some instances, positive evaluations are given simply because of an author’s connections or the personal interest of a publication’s editorial board. Whenever the exchange of “favors” starts to infiltrate an academic evaluation system, one cannot help but raise his or her eyebrows. 
 
Administrative overreach: Academic procedures are deeply bound by the bureaucratic and administrative mechanisms that support them, sometimes to such an extent that administrative power can supersede purely academic interests in the execution of evaluation systems. This has the negative consequence of placing unqualified personnel in positions of authority. As Professor Huang Yushun from Shandong University asked, are the employees of an administrative agency really qualified to evaluate the authenticity of a an unearthed silk or bamboo manuscript, or judge the viability of an article on quantum mechanics?
 
Credibility crisis: There has been no shortage of academic fraud such as plagiarism, cheating, the simultaneous submission of the same manuscript to multiple sources, and other abuses of the system, damaging the credibility of Chinese academia.
 
Chinese standards needed
A system adhering to western standards or espousing quantity for quantity’s sake is not beneficial to Chinese academic evaluation, particularly for the health of indigenous ideology. Instead, more scientific and systemic standards should be set up; these standards should emphasize a long-term perspective built from best practices. True academic thought needs to draw its basis from history. Unlike natural sciences, where experimental results can be evaluated and make substantial contributions on a short-term basis, humanities and social sciences require a long-term, historical introspection. 
 
Practice is the sole criterion for testing truth. Practice is the basis for the development of Chinese academic research, and the source of its vitality and creativity. Academic research bears the responsibility of addressing the biggest global challenges.
 
Wang Chunyan, Zhang Chunhai and Sun Wenjuanarefrom Chinese Social Sciences Today.
Chinese Social Sciences Today. No.281, Mar. 19.
                                                  Translated by Jiang Hong