ART: Mendes Matos, Measuring Research Productivity

Gretchen Whitney gwhitney at UTKUX.UTCC.UTK.EDU
Thu Oct 28 19:02:55 EDT 1999

Dr. Robson Mendes Matos, the author of this letter in Quimica Nova
22(3):462, 1999, has translated it from Portuguese to English for the
benefit of SIGMETRICS.  This translation is published with the permission of
the Brazilian Chemical Society.


Robson Mendes Matos
Departamento de Química - ICEx
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
Av. Antônio Carlos, 6627 - Pampulha
31270-901 - Belo Hotizonte - MG
robson at

 Research funding in Brazil both from Federal and State Governments has been
decreasing regularly. Because of this, the demand for productivity from
researchers has increased considerably but we already are supervising
research  projects, M.Sc. and PhD. Students, and publishing scientific
articles and patents.  Above all we are supposed to help our country's
technological development. However, to do so, we need fair and coherent
parameters to measure productivity.

The primordial question is: "What do we want, quality or quantity?".   I
myself would prefer both quality and quantity. However, the Brazilian
Federal Research Fund (CNPq) seems to value quantity over quality and in a
meaningless way. That policy  would encourage me to publish incomplete work
in obscure journals, which may never be read, or write about subjects that
do not require high-cost and long-term experimental work.  Thus, I would be
diverted from my main research, so as to achieve numerical aims imposed by

I believe that to achieve Brazilian scientific progress optimally, it is
necessary that we conduct a precise analysis of each researcher seeking
support from our funding agencies, so that we award funds based heavily on
quality without forgetting the quantity. We can create a system in which
quality is always taken into consideration. It is not acceptable that the
work involved in supervising an MSc. dissertation which produces at least
one article in a national or international journal, be considered equivalent
to one which results in no publications at all. Also, it is unacceptable
that an article on education or any other subject off  the main line of
research of  an experimental chemist is given the same value as that of his
or another's laboratory work in an experimental area. It is also
unacceptable that articles cited by many authors are given the same value as
articles that are never  cited.  One article cited by 10 authors is more
important than 10 articles cited by no one! Bibliographic citations may be
the most important tool for measuring the quality of our scientific
productivity because it demonstrates the relevance of our work.

Undoubtedly, some authors may say:: "If you cite me I will cite you in
return!". However, we have to assume that authors are ethical and scientists
have always aimed for honesty and in fact rarely do otherwise.  We are still
a reliable class of professionals and we must preserve this reputation.

One may think using citation analysis is an odd idea due to the great
complexity of the task faced by the funding bodies. However, I think it
would be a relatively simple task and would even enhance the reports of
those obligated to conduct evaluations for scientific funding committees.
Today, we all have access to the internet. Both project submissions and
assessor reports to PADCT (a special Brazilian research fund) are made
through the internet. And now we all have easy, quick and cheap access to
the Science Citation Index of the Institute for Scientific Information
through the Web of Science (http:\\  SCI's coverage
of everything significant in science has been demonstrated.  Through  SCI it
is possible to find out whether an article is indexed or not and even how
many times and by whom it has been cited.  Indeed, even if it is not indexed
in the SCI, one can learn by whom it has been cited. All this can be done
within minutes, without leaving your office. Using the Web of Science the
assessors can supplement their analyses of scientific work with a citation
report from ISI about the project coordinator, underlining the pros and cons
of this researcher's productivity. Only by doing so would we be recognizing
and awarding quality over quantity, funding the best research and thereby
ultimately increasing quantity as well in the  future.

Eugene Garfield, Ph.D.
Chairman Emeritus, ISI, 3501 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Publisher, THE SCIENTIST, 3600 Market St,
Philadelphia, PA 19104 (
Tel: 215-243-2205 // Fax: 215-387-1266
email:  garfield at
The Scientist:
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