VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam has many general scientists but a few true ones, why?
The concept “knowledge-based economy” has been mentioned in national economic policies. In the strategy to complete industrialization by 2020, the 11th Communist Party Congress emphasized “boosting industrialization, modernization of the country, connected with developing knowledge-based economy, protecting natural resources and environment.”
A knowledge-based economy can be understood as an economy in which knowledge plays the key role. Knowledge is different from natural resources, material resources and manual labor. In the knowledge-based economy, economic development is related to technological competition and technological competition depends on sciences and scientific research. Thus, in the knowledge-based economy, scientific research plays an extremely important role in economic growth.
Meanwhile, the position of Vietnam’s sciences in the world is very modest and the new government needs to have better policy to raise that position in the process of industrialization.
Where is Vietnam?
The results of scientific research can be seen through the quantity and quality of scientific articles on international specialized journals.
There are more than 100,000 scientific journals in the world but only publications named by the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) are recognized by the international scientific community. The rank in the world scientific circles of countries are assessed based on the quantity and quality of articles published on journals listed by the ISI.
Based on this parameter, Vietnam’s sciences is poor in comparison with other countries in Southeast Asia. From 2001 to 2010, Vietnamese scientists published 8,220 articles on ISI’s journals, 3.4 times more than ten years ago (1991-2000). However, this number is equivalent to one fourth of Thailand’s, one third of Malaysia’s and one sixth of Singapore’s.
To make it clearer, the author of this article uses data of ISI and SciVerse Scopus (is a bibliographic database containing abstracts and citations for scholarly journal articles. It covers nearly 18,000 titles from more than 5,000 international publishers, including coverage of 16,500 peer-reviewed journals in the scientific, technical, medical and social sciences fields) in 14 years, from 1996 to 2009.
There are several ways to rank sciences but generally, they are based on the quantity and a joint index between quantity and quality. The simplest way is based on the number of scientific articles because this is the parameter for the quantity of scientific information produced by a country. But this method is problematic, because some countries make public many scientific articles but nobody cares about them because their quality is poor. An example for this is China. In 1996-2009, this country published 1.5 million scientific articles on international journals, ranking second after the US (4.77 million articles during the same period) but China ranks 10th of 235 countries for scientific influence.
The number of scientific articles only reflects the quantity, not the quality, which is more important in sciences. A scientists who publish hundreds of articles but they are never cited by anyone is not considered a good scientist. Therefore, it is better to use another ranking method, using the H index.
The H index is the initiative of physicist Jorge Hirsch from the California San Diego University. The index is based on the distribution of citations received by a given researcher’s publications.
Hirsch writes: A scientist has index h if h of his/her Np papers has at least h citations each, and the other (Np − h) papers have no more than h citations each. In other words, a scholar with an index of h has published h papers each of which has been cited by others at least h times. Thus, the h-index reflects both the number of publications and the number of citations per publication.
Hirsch suggested that, for physicists, a value for h of about 10–12 might be a useful guideline for tenure decisions at major research universities. A value of about 18 could mean a full professorship; 15–20 could mean a fellowship in the American Physical Society, and 45 or higher could mean membership in the United States National Academy of Sciences.
Based on the h-index, where is Vietnam on the world scientific map? According to SciVerse Scopus, it is 84 in 1996-2009 period. Specifically, of over 8,000 scientific papers published during that time, 84 papers were cited at least 84 times.
With this h-index, Vietnam rank 61st out of 235 countries, lower than that of Thailand (39), Malaysia (54), Indonesia (58), and the Philippines (56) and much lower than Asian scientific powers like Singapore (31), South Korea (21) and China (18).
Analysis of research fields, Vietnam’s biomedical research ranks 50th in this field, 48th for immunity studies, 55th for mathematic research, 59th for physics, higher than that of some countries in the region.
Vietnam’s ranking is low for other fields: 75th for bio-chemistry, molecular biology and genetics, 74th for technology, 71st for material sciences and environmental sciences, 69th for agricultural studies and 67th for social sciences.
New criteria needed
The above analysis proves that the ranking of Vietnam’s sciences is not only low in the world but also in the region. In Southeast Asia, Vietnam only ranks above Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar in scientific research.
Detailed analysis shows that Vietnam is quite “strong” in medical, math and physical research but actually, more than 90 percent of medical research works in Vietnam are joint works with foreign scientists.
It is necessary and encouraging to have cooperation in experimental research but Vietnam must ensure to get patents (if have) and autonomy in sciences.
Vietnam has around 9,000 professors and associate professors and over 30,000 doctoral degree holders but only 900 scientific papers on international journals. This is an extremely modest number because under international standard, each professor needs to publish at least one article a year.
In Vietnam, it is mistaken between scientific articles and normal articles. For example, the local newspaper recently mentioned a scientist who has a high record number of articles about turtles. Actually, he has only two research works and no scientific article on any international scientific journal.
Many scientists still think that articles published on specialized magazines or on newspapers are scientific research works. With that thought, it is not surprised to see Vietnam’s low scientific productivity.
The Vietnamese scientific community has not created objective criteria to evaluate scientific achievements. Owing to this shortage, it is mistaken between normal articles or abstracts at conference and serious scientific articles, which leads to mistake in evaluating and granting scientific titles.
As a result, Vietnam has many general scientists but very few genuine ones.
Under international practice, a scientific work is considered to be complete if the results are published on peer reviews because only through internationally published papers, scientists can evaluate the value of that scientific work. This is not applied for many scientific works in Vietnam.
It’s time for Vietnam to set up criteria to evaluate scientific works. It is necessary to replace the “checking and taking over” procedures by publications on international journals.
Works that are not published on international forums cannot be called scientific works.
An outstanding character of industrialized countries like South Korea and Singapore is the strong sciences. Within 20 years, these countries have become middle-level powers of sciences, with many world leading universities and sci-tech centres.
Vietnam aims to finalize industrialization with knowledge-based economy by 2020. The country has only ten years to realize this goal while its scientific position is too low. Without revolutionary change in the policy for science, Vietnam cannot remarkably change its scientific ranking in the next ten years.