Chinese newspaper crackdown “a band-aid rather than a cure”


China has launched a major crackdown on journals that produce thousands of low-quality articles every year, but an academic argued that the priority should be to tackle the root causes of the below-average glut of publications. .

Last month, the advertising department of the Communist Party of China central committee warned university periodicals “not to relax the standards of profit controls.”

Today, the China Science and Technology Association (Cast) has become the first major industry body to respond, publishing a list of 53 journals – covering topics ranging from clinical pharmacology to urban development – that will make the mark. subject to audits.

Titles that have been prioritized for review include those that publish more than 2,000 articles per year or those that primarily publish articles under 5,000 words or three pages. Magazines that appear weekly or bi-weekly have also been targeted.

All other journals managed by Cast and its affiliates have been ordered to conduct a self-assessment of their review processes for article quality, business operations and publication license, according to an official notice. .

“There is a need to create a long-term management mechanism to prevent low-quality journals from publishing too many articles,” said Yu Liping, dean of the School of Academic Assessment and Scientific and Technical Statistics of the ‘Zhejiang Gongshang University.

“But it’s a band-aid rather than a cure if the root cause remains. The length of a document is not the issue – it can be of high quality even if it is less than 5,000 words.

China has replaced the United States as the country publishing the most research papers each year, but the over-representation of low-quality papers among the Asian superpower’s output remains a major concern.

Professor Yu said that the priority given by many Chinese scholars to quantity over quality was driven by the country’s professional title system, which determines an academic’s position within the socio-economic hierarchy of China. country.

“For professionals and technical staff, the professional designation is a determining factor in their reputation and income. Organizations now have more power to assess their own talent, but they often prioritize publication volume over quality and innovation, due to a lack of review capacity and administrative interference ” , said Professor Yu.

In September, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said that a reform of the system of professional titles, affecting 80 million professionals, had been “completed” after five years. The reform asked organizations to assess academics using a series of factors rather than just their publication output. However, continuing reports linking publication fraud to professional titles indicate that the extent of reform may vary in different areas.

“The fundamental solution is to stick with the reform and improve the way we assess professional titles and rankings,” said Professor Yu.

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