In order to improve development of research in the field of social sciences and humanities, the visibility of scientific work and results needs to be increased, policies that would discourage hyper production of papers should be introduced, while the government needs to stimulate evidence based policy making. These are some of the main recommendations that came out of the debate “Towards Increasing Excellence in Social Sciences and Humanities in Serbia” organised by PERFORM on October 8th at the Rectorate of the University of Belgrade.
The moderated debate focused on the key factors that impede excellence and relevance of social sciences and humanities (SSH) and how they can be addressed. The panel consisted of Tibor Sabo, Assistant Minister for Science at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Prof. Dr Ivanka Popovic, Rector of the University of Belgrade and other experts representing different institutions, disciplines and communities involved in the funding, management, production and dissemination of SSH research.
“Belgrade University has around 100,000 students. Half of that number are students at faculties in the field of social sciences and humanities. This is why social sciences and humanities need more attention at the University level. Quality and visibility of research in these fields need to be improved.” - Prof. Dr Ivanka Popovic, Rector of Belgrade University
Prof. Tibor Sabo pointed out that a significant improvement in the SSH filed has been made, although much still needs to be done to improve the quality and visibility of SSH research:
“In 2003 in Serbia only 10 papers from SSH were published in SCI listed journals. That same year in Croatia, 45 papers only from the field of sociology were published in SCI listed journals. In 2018, so far, 386 papers by Serbian SSH researchers have been published in SCI listed journals. This is a significant improvement in terms of quality and quantity.”
The starting point of the discussion was a recent study commissioned by PERFORM and conducted by Filip Ejdus, which takes a closer look at how and why social sciences and humanities in Serbia are not performing to their full potential. The study looks at how social science and humanities are performing in terms of quality, excellence and relevance, discusses underlying reasons for their under-performance, and provides recommendations on how some of the issues can be addressed.
“Most of publications produced by Serbian SSH scholars end up in books and domestic journals, many of which unfortunately do not meet basic professional criteria, such as double-blind peer review and an editor in chief with PhD degree. There is approximately one domestic journal per 3 researchers in the SSH field, which is absurd,” said Filip Ejdus, Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Political Sciences and author of the study.
Much of the debate focused on quantitative and qualitative evaluation of research results, and particularly on quantitative evaluation of research in the field of humanities. All participants agreed that visibility and transparency of SSH research is needed, as well as a dialogue among different actors on improving the system of evaluation of scientific research.