Visibility Matters

Research production, which earns universities money, is accredited publications in peer-reviewed journals and books. Increasing research productivity is one policy amongst many used by management to boost growth and income. It is time for a pat on the back, the growth of knowledge and visibility at RSLIS ranks us among the top 10 contributors to core LIS journals in a new international ranking. The management should be pleased.

 

RSLIS researchers work divergently; they study particular cultures, literatures, information technologies, libraries, communication and organizations, some specific and local others broad and international.  The difference is easily measureable in bibliometric counts that contribute to rankings. In 2014 Zhao and Strotmann produced a network map illustrating the extent individual researchers contribute to the development of information science, concluding that eight RSLIS researchers were at the research front in the studied period, 2006-2010. In 2015 RSLIS is again identified as a front runner. In a recent ranking, Walters and Wilder (2015) counted the number of publications in 31 core LIS journals in the Web of Science (WoS), from 2007-2012 and divided them between 4,311 LIS departments at 2,704 institutions. LIS journals include both library science and information science, encompassing multi-disciplinary research in areas such as human-computer interaction, information retrieval, scholarly communication and scientometrics. Only 53 LIS schools contributed more than 20 articles to the journals in the studied period, and RSLIS was one of them, meaning we are regular contributors to core journals and even more so, out of these 53 schools we are the 6th largest contributor. When judged per capita GDP the figures suggest that we produce more than expected, and those alert to cultural hegemony might note that half of the world’s research papers, as recorded in WoS, are produced by four countries: The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. 

In the analysis by Walters & Wilder, the journals were divided into subject categories: LIS core journals, practice-oriented journals, computer science oriented journals, management-oriented journals, informetrics and other LIS journals. Included publication types were: research articles, notes, reviews, theoretical/conceptual articles. Across all journal categories RSLIS ranks in 8th position behind four American LIS Faculties, and the University of Sheffield, Tampereen Yliopisto Finland and Nanyang Technological Singapore. We rank 6th across core LIS journals, 8th in computer science journals and 8th in Informetric journals. Limit the rank to LIS departments outside of the USA, Canada and UK, to remove the anglo-american bias in the collection, and RSLIS ranks 3rd across all journals and LIS core journals. 

The aim of the study was not just to rank productive departments but to explore the extent the perspectives and methods of various disciplines, including LIS, contribute to the broader academic field represented by the LIS literature in WoS. Therefore contribution to management and practice-oriented journals as well as “other” journals was analyzed. This is where the analysis of RSLIS performance gets tricky to interpret. In the study, RSLIS made little to no contribution to these two categories, but let it be said contribution was extremely low across the board for all non-American schools, including British schools, and the ranking is uninformative about European contribution to these research areas. On this point the study does reinforce the impression that publication counts suit the American broad application rather than the local practice, say the design of pedagogical tools for teaching entrepreneurship within information science and cultural communication at RSLIS (Elbeshausen et al, 2012). Rather, we should interpret the results of this part of the analysis as an indication that these journals do not represent the intellectual writing output concerning management and practice by RSLIS researchers. This claim is substantiated in the following small analysis. In the period 2007-2012 RSLIS Copenhagen department alone produced 240 English language and 216 Danish language publications and it is primarily the Danish language publications, typically book chapters, articles in national journals, union magazines and reports that constitute the subject matter in practice and management-oriented journals. These publications of local and national interest are not published in WoS LIS journals and hence excluded from the study. RSLIS research activities in this area are very broad, ranging from models of public and academic libraries, literacy and virtual reading groups, organizational studies, leadership, critical theory to urban development. Consequently rankings based on English language articles on management and practice WoS LIS journals convey only a small part of research activities at RSLIS.  

If one considers the possibilities beyond ranking of LIS output in WoS, what is excluded is even greater than what is included. What about online publications? What about teaching materials and text-books? And the staging of cultural events? And the development of software and tools? Some rankings have set up a category of “creative” output, but the metrics are hazy. Counting publications on the other hand is a robust metric for measuring production, and produces a baseline of how much a research department or institution contributes to a selection of, in this case, LIS journals. RSLIS has a research active faculty and the study is a pat on the back to the RSLIS researchers who manage to get published in this selective core of international LIS journals. Even though publication counts do not inform us of the extent RSLIS production accounts for a high rate of growth in research output or if RSLIS scholarship is expanding into new and innovative areas, it does tell us that RSLIS researchers are doing something right – they are serious game players in international LIS journals, and will continue to contribute to greater visibility and stimulate the quality of RSLIS scientific production.

Lorna Elizabeth Wildgaard   

References

Elbeshausen, H.,  Lunddahl Jensen, A., & Riis, R. (2012) Tag en bid af praksis: Pædagogisk værktøj til entreprenørskabsundervisning i praksis indenfor informationsvidenskab og kulturformidling. Online resource, available at: http://www.iva.dk/media/441096/tag_en_bid_af_praksis_ny_10052012.pdf. Accessed 11-05-2015.

Walters, W. H., & Wilder, E.I. (2015) Disciplinary, National and Departmental Contributions to the Literature of Library and Information Science, 2007-2012. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1002/asi.23448.

Zhao, D., and Strotmann, A. (2014) The knowledge base and research front of information science 2006-2010: An author cocitation and bibliographic coupling analysis. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1002/asi.23027