Published in: Centar za evaluaciju u obrazovanju i nauci. (2016). Using preferential lists in the system of evaluation of scientific journals: The problem of Serbian humanities, CEON/CEES Occasional Paper Series, No. 2016-03-1, ISBN 978-86-89475-03-6
Using preferential lists in the system of evaluation of scientific journals: the problem of Serbian humanities
Summary: From 2002 onwards, the Ministry of Science of the Republic of Serbia practices a model of categorization and ranking of scientific journals partly based on bibliometric procedures. All local periodicals of scientific nature are rated and ranked. The Serbian journals that are indexed by WoS and ranked in JCR are also includes, but they are granted one of the highest category/rank (M20) by default, in the same way as journals of foreign publishers. This makes WoS/JCR master list a preferential list in the system of Serbian journals evaluation.
In the draft of a new act regulating this subject matter the status of preferential ranking list is given also to Scopus/SCImago. It was added to WoS/JCR in order to allow for the most prestigious journals beyond the so-called hard sciences to be also categorized automatically. This proposal was met with great resistance of a part humanistic community. The protesters insisted that the preferential status should be granted also to ERIH PLUS journals list.
Based on the contracts with the Ministry, CEON/CEES conducted all previous yearly bibliometric analyses and published the results in our cumulative Journal Bibliometric Report (JBR). In this capacity, we found ourselves obliged to take a public position on the use of preferential lists in journal evaluation. Our full focus here is on the Serbian humanities, since such lists are almost exclusively intended for the use in this particular academic area.
First, it is shown that the list of ERIH PLUS is essentially unusable for categorization and ranking of journals. Contrariwise, the use of the Scopus/SCImago list is quite justified, but only for evaluation in humanities, and not for social sciences, at least not for all disciplines within this broad research area.
Then, bibliometric performance of the Serbian humanities in terms of productivity and impact is described and characterization of national journals is given. It is shown that the total international (WoS) performance of researchers is low in comparison with both the performance of domestic authors from other fields, and their colleagues in other European countries. A discrepancy was observed in number of papers published in WoS journals, which is small, and in domestic journals, which is so large that was characterized as hyperproduction. Low internationality of national journals and papers and their weak international impact indicates that the Serbian humanities is isolated and self-sufficient. At the same time, a portrait of Serbia in the world humanistic production, as featured by the key terms isolated from Scopus, is unfavourable and incomplete. It does not represent fairly Serbian language, literature and culture heritage and does not reflect its social reality and historical past.
It is concluded that a re-orientation of the Serbian humanities towards more publishing in prestigious international journals is needed in the first-class national interest. This process could not be supported by a system of evaluation which relies on qualitative indicators and arbitrarily-drawn special preference lists, but only by using quantitative indicators and global citation indexes. In order to achieve this objective, the evaluation system has to provide local researchers and journals with proper incentives and concrete support, rather than the protection- and exemption-type instruments.
Finally, a proposal to improve the Draft is offered, accompanied with some additional measures that can facilitate and accelerate the process of international recognition of the Serbian humanities, as well as its further development.