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Citation rate only criterion for successful research is limited

Based on a report from the education and vetenskapsministerium, professor Christina Moberg to Denmark has managed better than other nordic countries when it comes to creating the conditions for successful world-class research. The assessment of what counts as world-class research bases both CM and the Danish investigation solely on that which is commonly known as bibliometrics, that is to say, how many scientific articles researchers have written and especially how well these have been cited by other researchers. CM exemplifies with metrics of citations per million inhabitants and per 1,000 speech researchers.

From the Danish report draws CM the conclusion that Sweden should concentrate more on basic research than on applied research and indicates that history shows that basic research of high quality is the best breeding ground for new innovations and new companies. CM argued that the period between a new discovery and potential applications are often very long. We can certainly agree that basic research is important, but we see above all the following points are problematic with the CM's article:


To use the citation rate only criterion for successful research is, to say the least limited. CM points out that the research should be beneficial for society, but it is not clear from the Danish report the extent to which the Danish approach has led to research and the benefit to society increased. We also note that there are generally fairly small differences between most of the european countries in the metrics that CM is referring to. And how should the differences which, despite everything, is clear be interpreted as, for example, Spain will out well, and Iceland is at the top? With all due respect to Spain and the Island nations, these are hardly countries that are known for strong industry sectors or a high degree of innovation. It may well nevertheless be assumed that the industrial sector – with existing and new businesses – are the sector of society that will be a key to solving many of the challenges facing the world and contribute the most to the countries ' international competitiveness. This is reasonably the interaction between industry and academia (and other parts of the society) is a key to success.


CM setting basic research towards applied research. This we believe to be a gross simplification. Many of today's problems are complex and require research of both basic and more applied art to solve. Today it is also questionable whether it is possible to make a division between basic and applied research in the way that CM's article suggests. The challenge for the research councils and the research community is probably rather to ensure that relevant research questions are asked and that research of good quality is performed. Then there should also be room for both demand-driven research and pure nyfikenhetsforskning.


CM seems to ignore the fact that many of the challenges that the world faces, not least climate change – will require action in the near time. Then, it is not possible – as the CM claim – to passively wait for the research to bear fruit.

We can certainly agree with CM on general positions to long-term funding, reliance on talented researchers, and the absence of detailed governance of research is desirable. But, as the CM equate this to increase the direct funding to universities and reducing the proportion of external funding seems doubtful. If the CM with external funding mean the appropriation as scientists compete by seeking funding from various research councils, so this is probably basically a relatively fair legal process compared with the internpolitiska battles which preferably occurs when the universities themselves to allocate more resources. To researchers on equal terms, looking for agents, where researchers from all universities are competing against each other and to forskningsansökningarna evaluated by forskningskommittéer consisting of researchers is then to be preferred. Then can certainly discuss the way in which these calls should be designed with respect to the size of the poster and how many years funding will run.

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