Science in Serbia: towards the evaluative state
Center for Evaluation in Education and Science
Abstract: The purpose of this personal manifesto is to provoke discussions on open and objective evaluation in research and higher education in Serbia. Academic sector in Serbia is facing a period of inevitable changes. The process can be dubbed as 'double transition', since it has to incorporate both shift from centralized socialist to open and competitive system, and the shift from privileged and self-serving to an efficient and accountable community. The former is specific to the post-communist societies, and the latter arise from demands imposed to the science by state administrations in developed world. The basic dilemma is whether Serbia can conjoin the two processes. In other words, can it make inevitable changes in right time and by its own, or have to wait for them to be enforced by international partners, such as MMF, World Bank, and EU at a higher price?
A transition theory, the findings of 'economics of science' and the concepts of, 'new accountability', 'new managerialsm', and above all 'evaluative state', which nowadays attract attention of domain experts, and are generally oversighted by domestic analysts and decision-makers, are used in the discussion. The prospects of incorporating the doctrine of evaluative state into national R&D policy are analyzed in the light of scientometric data obtained from Science Citation Index and EINUS - Electronic Report on Research Output in Serbia.
The issue is discussed here in six essays:
In the opening essay entitled (i) Integrity and Fertility the two basic shortcomings of modern science and the two main reasons for calls for changes in modern science are addressed. Both are viewed as serious chronic problems of Serbian science, too. It is argued that both are actual to a higher extent than elsewhere.
In (ii) Scientific Wealth of the Nation research output of Serbia, as measured by comparative scientometric indicators, is documented and discussed. The evidences are interpreted as showing stagnation of Serbian science, especially in the social sciences domain. The start of decline coincided with the beginning of economic and social crisis, leading to wars and the breakdown of common Yugoslav state.
(iii) Evaluation of Journals is the first of three evidence-based articles dealing with the chances of introducing modern evaluation in the Serbian academy. Journals are viewed as 'central institutions' of science, and national journals even more so, regardless of their questionable quality. It is argued that national journals must and can be rigorously and permanently evaluated in the process of the struggle for the quality and international recognition, pivoted by more effective and selective governmental support. A model of journal evaluation implemented in EINUS was shortly described and illustrated by the results on impact and bibliometric quality of journals from education and psychology. Information infrastructure for journal evaluation has already partly built and scientometric and statistical tools for such evaluation are also developed. No reasons for state administrator's hesitation to use them in decision-making could be found.
In the following section (iv) Evaluation of Institutional Research Output the pros and cons for open and objective evaluation of institutions are debated. The evaluation of institutions is judged to be the most sensitive, complex and expensive sort of evaluation in academic sector. Yet, if based on properly derived citation indicators, it is possible, and is certainly more convenient than mechanisms of institutional assessment presently in use.
In (v) Evaluation of Individual Research Output it was shown that local citation data available in SocioFakt and amended by international citation data from Social Science Citation Index enable discriminative and interpretable evaluation results. Modern evaluation seems to be not only most needed, but also most feasible when applied to individuals.
In the concluding essay entitled (vi) Between Politics and Society the initial question on the prospects of applying modern evaluation in the domain of R&D sector in Serbia is readdressed in social and political context. It is estimated that social climate in the country is generally not in favor to introduction of evidence-based evaluation. Serbian society is historically non-responsive to the values of evaluative culture. However, there are clear signs that academic community is generally ready to accept it. Thanks to new technologies the price of information sources enabling practical evaluation is relatively low and cannot be regarded as an obstacle. The real obstacle is inside the sphere of politics. More specifically, the reason is the lack of readiness of government to take over all responsibilities, accept political risks for outcomes, and lead the process of reforms in a more sovereign way. In some public sectors, such as fiscal and monetary policy, where practice of rigorous evaluation of subjects under authority was introduced, present administration accomplished internationally recognized results. It seems that reluctance does not come from general policy of Serbian government, but rather from the policy of ministries of science and education.