Study sheds light on Serbia’s research productivity: good output, poor quality

Serbia’s production of research papers listed in Thomson Reuters has boomed since 2006, thanks to a government policy of requiring publication in JCR-listed journals in order for scientists to be promoted and get government funding.

This is according to a bibliometric analysis published in Scientometrics earlier this year. It looked at 14,293 articles with authors all coming from Serbia and published between 2006-2012.

Romania and Hungary published more articles (23,107 and 16,042 respectively) than Serbia. But Croatia and Bulgaria published fewer (10,466 and 6,462 respectively).

Given the number of researchers, GDP and investment in science, research production in Serbia is “good”, the paper concludes. Serbia especially excelled in internal medicine, where it accounted for 1.5% of all articles in the database, despite having only 0.1% of world population.

But this “outstanding” quantity wasn’t matched by quality.

The vast majority of these articles in medicine were published in small-impact journals, sometimes in Serbian language only, and 99.5% of them had fewer than ten citations. 67% of the papers had no citations at all. Even the top-cited paper only had 17 citations, so the study concludes that “a significant number of these articles did not influence the research conducted by researchers from other countries”.

Also, two of the top journals by the number of papers published, both of which saw a skyrocketing increase in papers after they were listed in 2009, were previously accused of citation cartels and poor editorial quality.

Most publications came from the two universities in Belgrade and Novi Sad (the capital of the northern county of Vojvodina), while the University of Pristina, now in independent Kosovo, only accounted for 2.3% of all analysed papers.

Featured image credit: CC BY 2.0 by Nicolas Raymond

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Mićo Tatalović

Science journalist at New Scientist
Mićo Tatalović is environment and life science news editor at New Scientist magazine. He is also the chair of the board of the Association of British Science Writers and is actively involved in promoting science journalism in South-East Europe.
He runs the EuroScientist blog Balkan Science Beat.
Mićo Tatalović

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